A proposal to erect a rooftop deck, or third floor courtyard, on the Diesel nightclub has been slowed down by its owners after South Side Planning Forum members asked for time for the community to offer input and suggestions.
Adam DeSimone, who owns the multi-use venue and property at 1601 East Carson St. with his father, Pat, and brother, Michael, informed forum members of the decision the day after the March 9 forum meeting.
That meeting began with Adam DeSimone, who made the presentation, stating he would be seeking two variances for the deck on March 18 before the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment.
"You are just a little too fast here," said Jerry Morosco, 15th St. resident who has hired a lawyer in his effort to oppose the deck.
To Mr. DeSimone's suggestion of possibly building a wall on the deck to win public support, Misi Bielich, South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association forum representative said, "Neighbors need an opportunity to make those types of suggestions."
Judy Dyda, of the South Side Local Development Co., told him he should have been here months ago.
The next day, Mr. DeSimone decided to ask for a continuance before the Zoning Board to "further cooperate with the community's interests in mind," he said.
He has already met with neighbors over the issue — none of whom support the proposal, he said — and will also meet with whoever else is interested. The South Side LDC will help arrange meetings.
He will also be meeting this month with the South Side LDC's Design Committee.
Two variances are required to build a deck.
In the first, he will be asking for an additional 1400-square-feet as the floor area ratio allows for a 900-square-foot deck. The proposed deck is 2,300-square-feet.
In the second variance, he will be seeking a 0-foot setback instead of a 20-foot setback from the rear lot line as the stairs in the building that would be extended upward are in the 20-foot area.
To proceed with the deck, he needs both the approval of the Zoning Board and the Historic Review Commission as Carson St. is a national registered historic district and a local historic district.
As an historic district, there are zoning and planning guidelines for what is appropriate in the district.
The Historic Review Commission, with whom he has already met, asked him to meet with the Design Committee and then return.
Mr. DeSimone stressed that no final plans have been drawn up.
While plans are required in the variance process, nothing is final, and what is being proposed is subject to change.
Under the proposal, the deck — or third floor courtyard, as he prefers — would have a maximum capacity of 150 people, raising Diesel's capacity to 750. It would be accessible from the interior only and would, for zoning purposes, be regarded as a third floor. He said efforts are underway to eliminate a view completely.
"This is all proposed, but there will be walls. If you look up from the street you will only see walls," he said, noting he is working with the Design Committee on a design.
Also, there may, or may not, be a bar on the deck, and he is unsure what to do about music.
There would be staff on the deck at all times. Currently, there are security guards, while uniformed police officers are retained weekends at Diesel.
By employing the officers, he is subsidizing security on Carson St., he said, as the officers respond to problems there.
To questions about greenery and more restrooms, he said he would love to put shrubs on the 16th St. side, and install a restroom on the deck — both if allowed.
He also said he has no intention of turning the deck into a "dance club."
"Pittsburgh loves being outside and seeing the sunshine," he said of the appeal of an outdoor courtyard.
As to parking, he said the club utilizes a valet service that uses an off-site parking lot.
City Councilman Bruce Kraus, who meets regularly with Mr. DeSimone on issues such as the perception of the business, and how Mr. DeSimone can help make Carson St. a better place, called him "a model alcohol purveyor in the Carson Street corridor" who runs a "first class operation."
"I never hear complaints about your business," he said.
However, as occupancy, congestion, and parking are major issues, he has informed Mr. DeSimone he would have a very difficult time supporting the deck if it increases occupancy.
"It is such a congested corner to begin with," he said.
Mr. Kraus said he has been approached by three bar owners who told him if this is approved, they want decks also.
What we should be thinking about, he said, is a management plan based on responsible hospitality practices, many of which have proven successful in other cities.
"We need an overall bigger picture of what we want the corridor to be," he said.
But he has not yet taken a stand on the proposal, he said, except to ask Mr. DeSimone to slow down and ask for a continuance.
Chuck Half, of the South Side LDC board, agreed a continuance is a good idea as he would like to get the right stakeholders together to discuss this.
Tom Barry, of the Chamber of Commerce, said he supports the deck, saying the notion of outdoor amenities should have already been addressed in the community.
"There is a way to compromise on this deck issue," said Mr. Half.
The next day, Mr. DeSimone emailed forum members he would be seeking a continuance.
The next forum meeting will be on April 13.