One of the residents attending the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation membership forum meeting on Feb. 17 promised to celebrate by drinking champagne when a local former restaurant, the Edge, now considered an eyesore, is torn down.
Developer Beau Beemsterboer plans to build a hotel, condos, a parking garage, a fitness center and spa, meeting rooms, ballrooms, two restaurants, a walking trail and pedestrian plaza on the site. He attends the forum meetings occasionally to give updates on the project.
He said crews have removed hazardous material from the Edge property. Also, independent contractors have applied for demolition permits and he hopes the work might start by mid-March.
Three or four well-known chains have shown interest in becoming the hotel anchor for the complex. "Studies are being done and we are close to negotiating a contract," Mr. Beemsterboer said.
"Our current goal has been to get the site ‘buildable,'" he said when asked if funding was in place yet. He said he knew banks and investors would be interested. "We will not start construction until we have enough money to finish."
A resident noted it was a "tight spot" to commence all the necessary construction. "There are a lot of challenges. That is why it sat there for 30 years. But it is similar to the Tri-Mont in that respect," the developer said.
He answered another question by saying that once construction starts, he expected it to take from two to two and a half years.
In addition to parking available at his facility, Mr. Beemsterboer expects visitors to the complex to park at Station Square. Also, "this garage up here (on Shiloh Street) is empty all the time, as far as I can see."
Kathryn Hunnien, who started employment as community sustainability coordinator in August, also addressed the group.
She intended to visit Grandview Elementary School the next day (Feb. 18) to assist the students in conducting a bird count.
On Feb. 20 the organization had community representatives visit Emerald View Park and participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count, a nature event observed Feb. 18 – 21 all over the country. Participants brought binoculars and kept records of birds seen and heard. The information collected was submitted to the Great Backyard Bird Count website.
The reason for documenting the locations of birds is to provide information for scientists and bird enthusiasts; bird populations are constantly in flux.
Participants counted birds for as little or for as long as they wanted.
Ms. Hunninen also spoke briefly about trees and said the City of Pittsburgh was willing to remove them. Residents can contact 3-1-1 or the MWCDC regarding diseased or damaged trees they had observed. "They are a safety hazard if near a building, street or playground."
One problem is that an insect, the emerald ash borer, has been damaging ash trees in the region for the past three years. Another is oak wilt, a disease clogging the vascular system of many species of oaks.
MWCDC Parks Director Ilyssa Manspeizer said urban wilderness hikes will continue this year and one is planned from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Feb. 27. Reservations were to be made by Feb. 21. The group will meet for the tour at the former Boggs Avenue Elementary School.
The next hike is scheduled for May 22.
Luke Ohlson, the new acting director of the Mount Washington Senior Center, introduced himself and encouraged seniors over age 60 to become members and to participate in exercise, classes and fellowship.
The MWCDC had copies of January crime statistics available for review by residents.
During January there were: two business burglaries, eight burglaries, 15 acts of criminal mischief, four drug arrests, four reports of harassment, five simple assaults, eight thefts from autos, two thefts from businesses and nine thefts from persons.
The next forum session is scheduled for March 17 and will feature a presentation on A Plus Schools.
MWCDC members also met that night in small groups and held a strategic planning session and discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the community and their organization.