South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Compromise proposed for Diesel deck by SS Forum


A "compromise" proposal by Diesel nightclub for a rooftop deck was the focus of the April 13 South Side Planning Forum meeting, when members were asked to report back with their respective organizations' positions on the issue by noon on April 21.

The deadline was set bacause the Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing on the required variances will be held at 9:50 a.m. the next day at 200 Ross St.

A consensus is required for the forum to take a public stand on an issue.

Adam DeSimone, who owns the multi-use venue and property at 1601 East Carson St. with his father and brother, is proposing to erect an open rooftop deck, or third floor courtyard.

Three variances are required: for the additional square footage; for a 0-foot setback; and for more parking spaces.

At the forum meeting, members credited Mr. DeSimone, who was in attendance, with "following the process," such as participating in three town hall meetings on the issue called by District 3 Councilman Bruce Kraus, and being willing to compromise based on community input.

But while following the process is one thing, usage is another, some members argued and different conclusions may be reached on the latter.

Mr. DeSimone's new proposal is for a deck of 1600-square-feet plus stairwells and restrooms. He was originally seeking a 2300-square-foot deck.

The maximum deck capacity would be 120, and not the 300 that a 2300-square-foot deck could command. Diesel's current capacity is 600.

There will be no amplified music, and all lighting will be down-shielded, which is in line with city ordinances.

An eight-foot high masonry wall will be erected to contain noise, keep objects from being thrown onto the street, and make the deck inconspicuous.

Mr. DeSimone also agreed to: utilize plastic bottles and glasses on the deck; employ security there at all times; and have no disc jockey or live music or a stage on the deck.

There would be a bar, wait staff, and tables and chairs.

The deck may use heaters in the fall to remain open, but it will be closed during cold winter months.

"We're exploring options of looking for private leasing spaces," said Mr. DeSimone about parking. Thirteen additional spaces are needed for a 1600-square-feet deck.

Mr. Kraus said hours of operation were raised at the public meetings, but there has been no concession on that issue.

To a question about retaining an acoustics consultant, Mr. DeSimone said he is currently taking proposals, and wants the consultant to look at the "bigger picture" as he is interested in sound-proofing the entire building.

Forum members are asked to weigh in on the revised proposal.

Rev. Kathy Hamilton-Vargo, of South Side Presbyterian Church, asked if any bar on East Carson St. is entitled to an open-roof deck.

Rick Belloli, executive director of the South Side Local Development Co., said businesses are limited to how large the building can be based on the size of the land. Zoning does not differentiate between a rooftop deck and, say, a shed, in its calculations.

In the LTV report, Judy Dyda, manager of community planning at the South Side LDC, reported Marriott Spring Hill Suites, also known as the Kratsa Hotel, is scheduled to open on April 17. An open house will be held sometime next week.

The URA granted Giant Eagle a 90-day exclusive negotiating option for a Get-Go on a site next to the FBI Building. Giant Eagle will appear before the LDC Design Committee on April 15. The URA wants the neighborhood to weigh in on the proposal eventually.

The Summerfield Suites Hotel has been redesigned to include 100 internal parking spaces. The new designs will be brought to the LDC Design Committee.

Toby Keith's country-themed "I Love This Bar & Grill" appears to be moving forward.

The retail study of East Carson St., SouthSide Works, and Station Square to make sure businesses are not competing with each other, is progressing.

Ms. Dyda concluded her report with news that Soffer provided the committee with a copy of its second quarter/summer marketing and event overview. The information will include upcoming alcohol-related events.

The latter is important in light of the recent "Chili Festival" — with alcohol — at SouthSide Works. Although the city agreed to allow the forum to review all South Side special event permits, the forum was not informed of the event.

Regarding the Neville Ice Arena, which was destroyed in a fire last weekend, Mr. Kraus said it is his understanding that it will be demolished within the next few days.

Thom Barry, of the Chamber of Commerce, said he witnessed people living in huts in "a pond of bottles and cans and garbage" off 18th St. Drugs, violence, and murder are issues.

"It is intolerable and unacceptable in my community," he said.

Mr. Kraus called the vagrants "modern-day hobos" who ride the nearby rails in the warm weather, selling drugs to support themselves. They leave the area when the weather turns cold, and return again in the spring.

He emailed Acting Zone 3 Police Commander Shirley Sloan that day expressing his health and safety concerns. He said her position is she does not want to break up the riverfront encampment as a murder occurred their recently and witnesses in the camp are needed.

In that case, officers should at least be stationed there, he said.

As the South Side has been dealing with issue the last 12 to 13 years, Mr. Kraus, in his email, asked why there is no effective, pro-active, front-end management of the problem.

Mr. Brannan said the forum would address a letter to Assistant Chief Paul Donaldson citing concerns about the camp.

Commander Catherine McNeilly, who attended past forum meetings in her role as Zone 3 commander, has been reassigned to write internal police policy, said Mr. Kraus.

The meeting ended with news of a Responsible Hospitality Institute one-day forum on June 8 at the Sheraton Station Square.

The non-profit RHI promotes cooperation among those involved in hospitality, safety, and community development groups.

Its approach is communication, cooperation, consensus, commitment, and collaboration among stakeholders.

Sponsors, such as UPMC, Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, South Side Chamber of Commerce, area universities, local officials, and others will cover all costs.

Attendance is open to anyone. For information on fees and more, visit: www.

The next forum meeting will be on May 11, and feature a presentation on an Aldi supermarket becoming part of the Goodwill Building development.


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