By Margaret L. Smyklas
Contributing Writer 

Planning Forum updated on status of outpatient center

 

January 15, 2019



Updates on the East Carson St. business district strategy, UPMC Mercy South Side Outpatient Center, and the South Side Parking Enhancement District (PED) were presented at the Jan. 8 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

On Jan. 24, from 6-8 p.m. at the Market House, the first meeting of the task forces for the East Carson St. business district strategy will be held.

Everyone is invited who wants to contribute their input. People do not have to reside in South Side to participate.

The meeting news was delivered by Josette Fitzgibbons, neighborhood business district manager for the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA).

The URA and the city, along with several South Side community groups, have been working to develop a community-driven, three- to five-year business district blueprint for strengthening East Carson St. from S. 10th St. to S. 25th St.


Ms. Fitzgibbons said the plan for the meeting is to start with an introduction of strategy, followed by discussion of three focus areas: economic vitality; public aesthetics; and promotion and marketing.

Briefly, the economic vitality recommendation focuses on the ideal business mix for East Carson St., and business incentives and support.

The aesthetics recommendation involves these themes: green, clean, safe, and welcoming, while the promotion/marketing recommendation relates to the corridor’s ability to increase awareness of East Carson St. and ensure the public has an accurate perception of the area.

In the second half of the meeting, participants will divide into their areas of interest.

Ms. Fitzgibbons said all that is asked of participants is that they commit to the process.

“These are not one-and-done meetings.

“We are rebuilding momentum for East Carson St.,” she said.

For the first few months there will be monthly meetings of the task forces all together. They may not all be held on Thursdays, as days/times will be staggered.

There will be intern assistance for the first year.

Ms. Fitzgibbons said the plan is for each committee to come up with three things to accomplish in the first year.

She said, hopefully, by this time next year, she will be talking about how much the committees have accomplished.

Funding has not yet been sought for an East Carson St. business district plan as a plan has not yet been developed. But funding will be needed for implementation down the road.

In an update of the UPMC Mercy South Side Outpatient Center, Julie Hecker, UPMC vice president, operations UPMC Mercy, said the goal is to move all clinical services out of the building.


A year ago, various services were relocated from the UPMC Mercy South Side Outpatient Center: surgery, to UPMC Montefiore; gastroenterology procedure lab, pain procedure room, and ophthalmology to UPMC Mercy; and infusion services, to UPMC Magee.

By the end of June, other services, including the walk-in clinic and outpatient rehabilitation, will be relocated a few blocks away at the UPMC outpatient services building at 23rd and Jane streets.

UPMC officials stated previously the impetus for the changes is a building analysis which revealed close to $30 million in repairs is needed to meet infrastructure standards for hospitals as building codes have changed over the years.

Ms. Hecker said officials are working to see if the hospital building can be converted to offices to consolidate UPMC IT departments throughout the city, or 800 to 1000 information technology (IT) personnel. Bids will be sought.

“I think it’s exciting news,” city Councilman Bruce Kraus said.

Not only will the services most utilized, such as rehabilitation, remain in the South Side, but the IT jobs would remain, with 800 to 1000 people contributing to the local economy such as through lunch dining, he said.


As to parking, Ms. Hecker said there will not be a decision until the actual costs of the entire project are obtained.

To a question about the Roesch-Taylor Medical Building, 2100 Jane St., Ms. Hecker said the building is in need of much work, and is sparsely occupied, but officials may look to reservice it.

She also announced ground is expected to be broken in February for the new UPMC Vision and Rehabilitation Hospital at UPMC Mercy. There will also be an urgent eyecare center.

Mr. Kraus delivered an update on the South Side Parking Enhancement District (PED).

The PED -- the enforcement of South Side Flats parking meters from 6 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays – began March, 2017.

Mr. Kraus reported the total gross in 2018 was $208,592. Since the PED began, the overall total is $371,237.

The revenue from the South Side PED is in a trust fund to be invested back in the area. The money must go to public safety, cleanliness, and infrastructure improvements in the neighborhood.

High-resolution cameras have been purchased with PED funds, and are up and running in the area.

Block by Block, or a “Clean Team,” was retained with PED funds for September-December, 2018, to keep the area free of trash, litter, weeds, and more. The workers also power-washed the sidewalks to rid them of gum, grease, and other detriments.

Since 10th to 18th streets is the primary night life area, those blocks are targeted for the cleaning.

This is in addition to the city services that are provided.

Mr. Kraus said in January-February, the Clean Team will consist of one person, which saves $10,000.

He also said city council voted that day to extend the Clean Team until the end of April. Work on a bid is underway that would extend it beyond May.

“There is good, positive feedback everywhere I go,” he said.

He said the workers are GPS-monitored, so their location and activities are known at all times.

Next, Tracy Myers, chair of the Development Review Committee (DRC), reported the zoning change of use sought for a pet resort was approved by the Zoning Hearing Board.

The resort is planned for the corner of 26th and Sidney streets in a retail site on the first floor of the garage attached to City Apartments. The business will offer boarding, grooming, pet massages, and more, and is expected to hire up to 40 employees.

The zoning change was requested for the site because an animal care facility is not permitted in SouthSide Works.

She also reported the Soffer Organization’s debt was bought by another company.

“SouthSide Works is not going out of business,” she said.

The strategy, she said, is to not treat the SouthSide Works as a destination but as serving South Side and Pittsburgh.

The Zoning Hearing Board will have a hearing in January/February on the proposed “Distillery at South Shore.” Variances are sought for a setback, sidewalk, and parking spaces.

The project is the redevelopment of a building at 129 McKean St., at the corner of McKean and 2nd streets. It is between where the Liberty Bridge and the T-line pass over the Flats. The structure originally stored whiskey barrels.

The formal proposal is for renovation and addition to the existing structure for use as grocery (limited), retail (general), and restaurant (general).

The new building will have eating venues, a cigar smoking area, a site for artists to display their works, and more. The ground floor would have a fresh market.

Next, in the South Side Neighborhood Plan update, committee chair Ms. Myers said this evening’s meeting was the last official Planning Forum meeting chaired by the retiring Hugh Brannan. He has agreed, however, to chair meetings in February and March.

Tom Smith, editor of The South Pittsburgh Reporter, will serve as interim chair beginning in April until new leadership is determined.

Ms. Myers said the Brashear Association’s service area has evolved, and may not stay the same. Mr. Brannan said at last month’s meeting he did not foresee a situation in which Brashear did not serve South Side in some way, but Brashear’s focus of service is shifting to the Hilltop communities.

She said, therefore, it needs to be determined how leadership will be structured. Also, will the Planning Forum continue to operate on a consensus basis?

To help with that process, a request for proposal (RFP) has been drafted for a consultant. Funds must be raised to pay for the consultant.

Last month, Ms. Myers issued the charge to representatives of member organizations to ask their respective boards whether the Planning Forum should continue to exist.

The representatives were asked to report back on the issue to the Forum at its February 12 meeting.

In announcements, Candice Gonzalez, of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, reported a Chamber Happy Hour will be held on Jan. 23 from 5-7 p.m. at 1712 E. Carson St.

It will be hosted by Dollar Bank South Side with Community Options.

The next public meeting of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA) will be Jan. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center, 148 Monastery St.

The annual South Side Soup Contest, co-sponsored by the Brashear Association and the South Side Chamber of Commerce, is scheduled for Feb. 16 from noon to 3 p.m. General admission tickets are $30.

Tickets go on sale on Feb. 1 at noon.

Proceeds benefit the Brashear Association Food Pantry and programming at the Chamber’s “Visit Pittsburgh” Welcome Center, located at 11th and East Carson streets.

Brashear food pantry donations are also accepted. For more information, visit: http://www.southsidesoup.com.

Lastly, Ernest Rajakone, of the city’s Office of Community Affairs, announced the city is in need of volunteers for its Snow Angels programs, in which snow shovelers help elderly residents and others with disabilities.

The city matches those in need with a volunteer to remove snow from sidewalks and driveways. Volunteers should call 311, call his office, or email him at ernest.rajakone@pittsburghpa.gov.

The next forum meeting will be on Feb. 12.

 

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