South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Riverfront Park at SouthSide Works nearing completion this summer


An update on the Riverfront Park at SouthSide Works was the sole presentation at the South Side Planning Forum's May 10 meeting.

A scheduled presentation on the proposed conversion of St. Josaphat Church into condos will be delivered at a later date, possibly during the June 14 forum meeting.

Mabon Lichtenfels, vice-president of construction and development for the Soffer Organization, said Phase 2 of the roughly 4.5-acre Riverfront Park opened to the public in Oct., 2010. Phase 2 refers to the flat surface area adjacent to the Hofbrauhaus, with planters, trees, lighting, and kiosk.

The latter, which was severely damaged by a drunk driver, will be taken down and repaired. It will probably not be ready until October.

A one-year warranty checklist for Phase 2 will soon be undertaken with the contractor.

The park area from the Hot Metal Bridge to 26th St. is expected to open in late July or early August, 2011. A major city issue at this time is the city doesn't have the money to maintain the park.

As a result, an interim maintenance plan is being worked on, and it looks like some foundations will step up to help, said Mr. Lichtenfels.

He also said the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) is looking into hiring a Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) consultant for the park.

CSX is scheduled to start construction in Nov., 2011, for rebuilding the underground railroad tunnel "to make the line more accessible to all freight," he said.

Currently, the tunnel is not tall enough to allow a double stacked container to pass through. The bid package should be out in June with the planned project completion date in Dec., 2012.

The entire park is expected to be completed in mid-2013. The initial cost of $10.2 million has increased to $13 million. Adjustments to the project included altering the plans so the city's Public Safety Department can bring a fire truck onto the site.

"Overall, things are progressing nicely.

"It's going to be a great park," said Mr. Lichtenfels.

He urged forum organizations to call him for a park tour.

In the LTV Steering Committee report, delivered by Mr. Lichtenfels, he reported groundbreaking for the six-story, 134-room Hyatt Summerfield Suites Hotel would take place on May 12.

Toby Keith's country-themed "I Love This Bar & Grill" is "on hold" due to another funding issue.

In other news, Steve Madden Shoes is closing; U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle moved into an office onto Carson St .; and the doubledecker tour bus is doing well.

"The restaurants are still going well," said Mr. Lichtenfels.

The proposed marina is progressing slowly. The developer, who will be looking for assistance, would like to get through the approval process this year, and open next year.

Susie Puskar reported Bryan Boak and Kim Collins were selected as co-chairs of the South Side NID Steering Committee. The selection committee of the steering committee chose Wendall and Associates to help with the legal and community process of NID formation.

A NID is an area established to provide funding for improvements to supplement limited city resources, such as security patrols and streetscape beautification. An assessment is levied on area properties to fund the improvements.

Committee discussion included that property owners will need to see the value of their investment in a NID.

If a NID is formed, the district will have to sign a memorandum of understanding with the city which ensures the city cannot reduce services after a NID begins. NID services do not duplicate city services that are paid with tax dollars.

The city Law Department also indicated a NID can be structured with consideration toward elderly and disabled home owners.

The NID would not become law until passed by city council. Prior to coming before city council, public meetings will be held.

Regarding the South Side Neighborhood Plan, Mr. Brannan said he was asked to convene a meeting of organizational presidents to look at plan items that might need to be revisited in light of the South Side LDC's plan to close. The organizations have assignments in the neighborhood plan.

Organizational presidents are: Paul Lorincy, South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association; Kim Collins, South Side Chamber of Commerce (acting); Tracy Myers, South Side LDC; Joe Bielecki, South Side Community Council; and Jennifer Jeffers, Brashear Association.

Mr. Brannan said he hopes to hold the meeting before the next forum meeting.

He also reported the April 14 zoning board hearing for the special exception being sought to open a controversial after-hours "social club" at 2214 East Carson St. was "very well attended."

Mr. Brannan expressed the forum's opposition at the hearing.

The proposed upscale club in the vacant former St. Elmo's bookstore, called the Polish American Citizens Club of Western Pennsylvania, must obtain "special exception" approval because a social club is a special exception in a Local Neighborhood Commercial (LNC) district.

The main point of opposition is that another alcohol establishment — and with a 3 a.m. closing — compounds and extends the problems that afflict the East Carson St. corridor due to its proliferation of bars.

No neighborhood residents spoke in favor of the exemption, said Mr. Brannan.

The zoning board will issue its decision within 45 days of the hearing.

On another issue, Rev. Kathy Hamilton-Vargo, of the South Side Presbyterian Church, said she is concerned for the safety of seniors from the Carson Towers who cross in the middle of Carson St. Instead, there are two lighted crosswalks they should walk to in order to cross.

In closing, Mr. Brannan said the latest issue [Tuesday, May 10] of The South Pittsburgh Reporter contains the Birmingham Foundation's Summer Fun in the South guide for children that parents should be directed to for youth activities.

The next forum meeting will be on June 14.


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