South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Neighbors concerned with the expansion of Salvation Army


April 21, 2009

The Salvation Army's proposed new, two-story building with expanded retail store and Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) program was the sole presentation at the April 14 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

Details on the estimated $4 million project were presented by John Martine and Tom Price of Strada Architecture.

A handful of residents who live nearby and are opposed to the expansion were also in attendance, citing concern foremost about the presence of 32 ARC program graduates who will be living at the site.

The Salvation Army is located on the corner of Bingham and 9th streets where it currently operates its retail store and ARC program.

The non-profit organization is proposing to construct a two-story building across Cabot Way from their existing facility at 811 East Carson St. The space required for this addition previously housed their delivery truck parking lot, and the Fire Water Restoration company which was recently demolished.

A three-story building at 809 East Carson St., which previously housed a pet store, will be incorporated into the new building.

This structure is being retained as it is part of the East Carson Historic District, and was required by the City's Historic Review Commission to be maintained as part of the project.

The building will incorporate space at 54 South 9th St. — now demolished — which previously had an occupancy of ten residents for the ARC program. Those men are temporarily residing in the Salvation Army building.

When the project is completed, the new building will house a roughly 15,000-square-feet retail, first-floor showroom that will be handicap-accessible. The current store consists of 8,000-10,000-square-feet over two floors.

Off-street parking serving the building will be constructed in a lot off Bingham St. between 8th St. and 7th St.

The retail store's entrance will be on the corner of 9th and Carson streets. The store will stay open until 9 p.m .; it currently closes at 6 p.m.

The second floor of the new building will have a chapel and 16 ARC suites for housing 32 men.

In order to reside as a graduate of the ARC program, the man must have a job, and must be approved for participation by the Salvation Army. The graduate pays room and board.

The program, developed in the 1950s, is designed to help the graduates get reestablished in life. They are monitored while there.

Security cameras will be installed in the entire area of the project.

A neighbor opposing the project said smoking is prohibited inside the building and the current ARC participants huddle in the Cabot Way alley, causing congestion and harassing passers-by. That group will only grow larger with the addition of more men, she said.

Another neighbor said it was a man in the ARC program who stabbed someone on 8th St. two weeks ago.

Martina O'Leary, the Salvation Army's administrator for business, said due to confidentiality laws, she could neither confirm nor deny the claim.

She said she has been with the organization since 2002, and has never received complaint calls from residents.

Judy Dyda, manager of community planning/Elm Street manager at the South Side Local Development Company, said she needs to hear data, such as the number of police calls from residents. "I'm not hearing it," she said.

City Councilman Bruce Kraus said he also wanted to see reports on any calls or disturbances.

Neighbors said they were never contacted by the Salvation Army 18 months ago when the project planning began.

A neighbor said he and his fellow residents already live amidst "volatile people," as the small area houses a probation office, Mercy Behavioral Health, Achieva mental health services, and more.

A neighbor said the proposed drop-off on East Carson St. is problematic as people will be stopping their cars on the road while they drop off large items like couches and televisions.

Wanda Jankoski, of the South Side Community Council, said neighbors should be documenting anything troublesome that happens related to ARC, but that does not appear to be happening.

To a question from Rick Belloli, executive director of the South Side LDC as to whether the design could be tweaked to accommodate both sides, Mr. Martine said as the Cabot Way entrance is a concern, he would explore options for an entrance off East Carson St.

In an email to Planning Forum member after the meeting Mr. Martine wrote explained some of the steps the Salvation Army will take

"We will design a primary entrance for the Second Floor residents through the 809 East Carson Street building. Having an entrance on East Carson Street was first suggested by Bill Bernstein. For life safety reasons, an emergency exit serving both the retail and residential components of the building onto Cabot Way is still necessary, however, this emergency exit would be alarmed and would only be used if evacuation of the building was necessary.

"Cabot Way Congregating [smoking] Issue: The Salvation Army has issued a directive starting immediately that places that section of Cabot Way from their existing store parking lot to S. 8th St. off limits to all program participants. In addition, after 6 p.m. when the store closes, the designated smoking area will be in the existing store parking lot (the "notch" in the rear of the Bingham Street building). This should eliminate program participants congregating on the street corners in the evening to smoke.

"Donation Drop Off Point: The proposed Donation Center on East Carson St. will be attended and tax receipts given during the store operation hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday thru Saturday. The new building will have security cameras and any illegal dumping after hours will be prosecuted. Security rounds of our property are conducted hourly between 12 and 6 a.m."

The next step is a 10 a.m. appearance on April 23 at the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

The timeframe for the project is 12 to 14 months from the start of construction.

In the LTV update from an April 7 steering committee meeting, Ms. Dyda reported that work on the widening of East Carson St between 25th and 33rd streets is progressing with minimal problems on the construction and neighborhood impact sides.

Regarding the Kratsa Hotel being built on Water St., the construction manager — Zambrano Corp. — has filed for bankruptcy. The courts have released the contractor from the project, and Massaro is the new construction manager.

Massaro is negotiating with the existing sub-contractors, and expects all to remain on the project.

No change in design is planned.

The goal is project completion by Thanksgiving, 2009.

In other SouthSide Works news, Mr. Belloli said Hofbrauhaus, on-site brewers specializing in German beer and food, is "filled to the rafters" with customers, with a grand opening planned for later this month.

There are some "parking challenges," he said, and whether the establishment is thinking of validating parking in the garages is unclear.

In the report of the steering committee on the future of UPMC South Side, member Tom Smith said he Paul Lorincy attended a UPMC meeting of hospital and local government officials.

He called it "informational sharing" between the groups.

As follow-up, the steering committee sent UPMC a letter expressing its desire to continue dialogue.

UPMC's plan is to close the hospital within five years as it consolidates with UPMC Mercy with a stated goal of providing the best possible patient care.

"We're not giving up on the hospital, but we have to be prepared for what may happen in the future," said Mr. Smith.

In New Business, the Mayor's Advisory Committee on the South Side sent a list of recommendations to the mayor, and are awaiting his response.

At the request of the forum, Chuck Half, of the mayor's office, said he would email the recommendations to forum Chair Hugh Brannan to distribute among forum representatives.

The forum's next meeting will be on May 12.


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