A proposal to build an ALDI discount grocery store at South 27th and East Carson streets may not have history on its side.
At the combined July-August meeting on July 27 of the South Side Planning Forum, ALDI representatives said the store's design requires demolishing several structures which stand in the way of the proposed store.
One of the buildings, the former Bluestone's Drug Store, is a "contributing structure in the historic district," said Jerry Morosco, of the city's Historic Review Commission (HRC).
At a July 7 meeting, the HRC approved the demolitions except for Bluestone's, which it wants relocated on Carson St., said Scott Caplan, of Burns and Scalo, which plans to sell the property to ALDI.
Christina Morascyzk, director of real estate for ALDI in Western Pennsylvania, said after determining if the building can be moved to accommodate the design, a relocation site will be selected. But it is unknown at this time, she said, if the structural integrity or cost will allow it to be moved.
Mr. Morosco said if the cost becomes prohibitive for ALDI to build, the company can make a hardship argument to the HRC.
To a question as to what makes Bluestone's "a contributing structure" — as opposed to other buildings in the district, such as a convenience store — Mr. Morosco said it is its architectural detail that exemplifies the late 19th -, early 20th -century when it was built.
But the issues raised extend far beyond this proposal, he said.
Questions to be considered include: How do we value structures in historic districts? Are we willing to give up this building? If so, what will come next?
"It sets a precedent," he said.
Misi Bielich, of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association, said the matter needs to go before the entire community.
The presentation began with an ALDI video in which it is stated ALDI stores are smaller so therefore less expensive to build and maintain — the savings passed on to customers. The average family savings, according to the video, is $3,000 to $4,000 annually.
The stores are not full-service: there is no pharmacy, cleaners, bakery, etc., which complements the smaller neighborhood businesses, said Ms. Morascyzk.
While the company has 1,100 stores nationwide, the proposed South Side store would be the first within the city of Pittsburgh.
Vehicular access would be from South 27th St. with parking at the rear and side of the store. Trucks would unload off Sarah St. There will be 58 parking spaces, 30 bike spaces, and off-site spaces for 15 employees.
Architectural elements were incorporated into the building so it fits with its surroundings.
ALDI met four times with the Design Committee of the South Side Local Development Co. about the design. The company is scheduled to meet with the HRC about signage and brick work on Aug. 4.
When criticized by attendees that the presentation that evening should have occurred months prior to the Aug. 4 hearing, Ms. Morascyzk said it was late because the original design "looked nothing like this."
"We've done a lot of due diligence to date on this project," she said.
In the end, forum members were asked to consult with their respective groups about whether "to approve the design and appropriateness of this plan at this site."
A response was requested before the next forum meeting on Sept. 14, if possible.
Issues of demolition or relocation will likely be addressed in the coming months.
In the meantime, Ms. Morascyzk said she will give presentations to any community group upon request. The South Side Community Council might also hold a public meeting on the topic.
In the other brief presentation, James Fogarty spoke about Power of 32, a regional visioning initiative involving 4.2 million residents of 32 counties in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
He urged attendees to participate.
The process began this summer with community conversations at multiple locations during which residents discussed the strengths, challenges, weaknesses, and more facing the region.
In the fall, residents' input and other data collected during the conversations will be looked at by teams of business leaders, academics, elected officials, and others, resulting in the development of policy options.
Then, at town meetings next year, attendees will prioritize the policy options that best address the top challenges and take advantage of opportunities.
That information will serve as the basis of an agenda for public officials.
More information can be found at www.powerof32. org.
The next forum meeting will be on Sept. 14.