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By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Plan presented to South Side to manage entertainment district

 

October 27, 2009



— Challenge is to balance needs of residents and visitors to the neighborhood —

A proposal for managing the South Side's nightlife that starts with bringing together stakeholders to reach collaborative solutions was presented at the October meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

Entitled, "Inviting, Safe, and Cohesive: A Proposal for the Management of the South Side Using Responsible Hospitality Practices," it was prepared by Bryan Woll, a staff intern in the office of city Councilman Bruce Kraus.

Mr. Woll, who grew up in Pittsburgh, is a second year student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. His work was funded by the Local Government Academy.

"We are not alone," he said in reference to other cities which are trying to strike a balance between hospitality and entertainment, and the residential and commercial zones.

East Carson St. is considered a hospitality zone due to its high number of liquor licenses and music venues, making it a dynamic and eclectic regional draw.

The challenge, said Mr. Woll, is striking a balance between the thousands of people who flock to the area for nighttime drinking and entertainment, and the quality-of-life issues of those who reside in the neighborhood or operate daytime businesses there.

The "responsible hospitality approach" involves bringing stakeholder groups together to address the issues.

The approach emphasizes "five c's": communication, cooperation, consensus, commitment, and collaboration.

There are six areas of focus: security, safety, and focus; community policing; music and entertainment; multi-use sidewalks; late-night integrated transportation; and quality of life.

It is important to remember, said Mr. Woll, that other cities face the same challenge, have addressed it using the responsible hospitality approach, and have had successful results.

The report states that the following 10 priorities for the South Side "ought to be considered and put into action as quickly as possible": responsible hospitality partnership, dedicated policing unit, code cooperation team, business improvement district, extensive data collection, messaging campaign, establishment practices, business assistance program, cleaning team, and coordinated transportation.

While there is no plan on the South Side for making this work, putting more police in the area is not the solution, said Mr. Kraus.

To a question of how this fits into the Mayor's Advisory Task Force on the South Side, he said this is a "cooperative effort."

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He would like to do a "whistle-stop tour," he said, of all the stakeholder individuals, groups, organizations, and businesses.

The successful merging of a thriving entertainment district with a residential neighborhood and daytime businesses would be "positive all around," he said, with rising property values, happy residents and business owners, more jobs, more taxes generated for the city, etc.

Both he and Mr. Woll stressed this will not be a project with an end date, but an on-going process.

Mr. Kraus said that Mr. Woll's work is nominated for a National Hospitality Zone award.

The other presentation was by Richard McClure, president of the Pennsylvania Commercial Management Services, Inc ., and Ned Shekels, senior vice president of Pennsylvania Commercial Real Estate, which owns the management division.

Their proposal is designed to help alleviate Friday and Saturday evening parking and trash problems in the Wharton Square shopping center which Pennsylvania Commercial manages.

"We're trying to be a good neighbor," said Mr. McClure.

The plan is to utilize 127 parking spaces on Friday and Saturday evenings in a remote corner of the lot and charge motorists to park there. The parking would be managed by two attendants, who will also police the area for trash. Cones and signs will be erected.

The men said the clean-up costs at the lot on weekends are about three times the cost at other shopping centers they manage.

"It's a way of positively attacking the problem," said Mr. McClure.

Giant Eagle has agreed to the arrangement.

Valets would be encouraged to use the lot to park cars, thereby keeping the cars off residential streets, which is a major complaint of residents.

The parking hours would begin at 9 p.m. Giant Eagle closes at midnight. Its customers would not have to pay to park.

The plan is to charge $5 a car, with 30 to 40 cars needed to break even.

Entry points would be off 20th and 19th streets.

The proposal must next go before the city Planning Commission.

In the LTV report, Rick Belloli, executive director of the South Side LDC, said that current guidelines for riverfront signage at the LTV site are "not on a level playing field" across the city.

Signage guidelines for the LTV site allow signs on all sides of a building except the river side.

American Eagle is requesting a variance for a riverfront sign on its office building on the grounds that it complies with the suggested revision.

Mr. Belloli said there might be a six-month delay to standardize the riverfront signage across the city.

The anticipated arrival in 2010 of Toby Keith's country-themed "I Love This Bar & Grill" has raised concerns on whether the restaurant business is saturated on the South Side.

As a result, said Mr. Belloli, there is a proposal for a consultant to conduct an assesment of Carson St ., SouthSide Works, and Station Square to make sure businesses are not competing with each other, but are complementing one another as they compete with the region as a whole.

"I Love This Bar & Grill" is planned for a location west of the Hofbrauhaus where a Doc Hotel was originally planned.

Regarding the South Side Riverfront Park, Phase 3A is out to bid: paving, landscaping, etc ., from Tunnel Blvd. to the river wall.

The "request for proposal," or RFP, for a proposed marina was released, with a response deadline of another two weeks.

Hofbrauhaus, brewers specializing in German beer and food, held an Oktoberfest the past two weekends.

Mr. Belloli said it was considered successful, with mostly positive feedback from the neighborhood.

A close-out review meeting with the event's organizers will be sought down the road, he said, as there was some concern about the noise from the outdoor festivities.

But he also heard many positive comments, he said, and there were no complaints about trash or parking or security.

The next forum meeting will be on Nov. 10.

 

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