South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Al Lowe
Contributing Writer 

Mt. Washington supports new hotel plans


August 26, 2008

Residents attending the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation forum meeting August 21 showed enthusiastic support for plans by an architect and a developer "to build something wonderful" at the site of a neighborhood eyesore, the former Edge restaurant located adjacent to the Mon Incline.

Developer Steven Beemsterboer wants to build a five star hotel featuring rooms, 140 condominiums, two restaurants, a fitness center and parking spaces there.

Architect Luke Desmone, involved in that project, also is designing plans for a nearby stairway leading from the incline to West Carson St. It would use concrete pads from a former incline that once carried trucks and horse-and-buggies.

MWCDC board president Frank Valenta said Mr. Desmone had been giving "beautiful presentations" to residents and MWCDC directors. "God bless you, Luke. Don't give up," said Mr. Valenta while introducing him to the forum audience.

"My goodness, it's good to see you guys," said Mr. Desmone, who said he has been involved in the planning for two and a half years.

He said the hotel project would be financed through private funding and tax increment financing would not be used. "It goes against my taxpayer mentality," he said.

But for the stairway he is seeking state and corporate funding and private donations. He said that particular project would support nearby public transportation.

Speaking about the hotel, Mr. Beemsterboer said "Our goal is to build something you the community, myself and private investors will really be proud of."

"I reiterate this is a conceptual design. It has a lot of maturing to do. That's why we want your input, your influence," Mr. Desmone said.

"This is a shot in the arm for the business district," shop owner Chuck Wallace said. "This will put us over the top."

Other comments were:

"I love the project. I'm so tired of looking at the Edge."

"It is an amazing opportunity for the business district. It will bring in fresh blood."

"This is a green building, an environmentally friendly building."

In response to a question, Mr. Desmone said he did not know yet how much visitor parking would be needed.

MWCDC members voted on the following motion:

"We the members attending an August 21 MWCDC membership meeting support the new development and construction at the far eastern end of Grandview Avenue called The Edge. We further support a developer who counsels with community residents, especially the development area residents, as to problems and improvements, if any. We refer the vote of this motion to the September 4 meeting of the MWCDC board. The board's position will be referred to the September 18 membership meeting where there will be a final vote regarding the official position of the MWCDC.

The vote was 53 in favor of the motion, with no one opposed.

"I'm overwhelmed," Mr. Beemsterboer said.

"Yesterday was my birthday," Mr. Desmone said.

"I hope you show up with the same enthusiasm at public meetings, planning commission meetings, council meetings, whatever it takes to move this baby through. We need your help," he said.

Mr. Valenta gleefully recalled that his wife told him today's horoscope for him said ‘You'll have to tear down the old in order to rebuild."

In other business, Bob Brown reported about a boxing program, for ages eight and over, to be held at a vacant building on Dillworth Field. He said that if the program builds one youth's character it is worth it.

A resident who lived nearby said she was concerned the program might attract more young criminals to an area already plagued with crime. Mr. Valenta said he would schedule a meeting with Mr. Brown and local residents to air their concerns.

Those interested in the boxing program can contact Mr. Brown at 412-728-2206.


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