South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Property owners explain plans at South Side DAM meeting

 

October 6, 2020



The third virtual development activities meeting (DAM) of the South Side Community Council (SSCC) featured presentations on four South Side projects.

The Zoom video conference was held on Sept 24.

The four projects are: 2016 East Carson St., 1713-1715 East Carson St., 2529 East Carson St., and South Side Works Tunnel Park dog park.

A DAM provides an opportunity for citizens, property owners, business owners, and stakeholders to learn about the proposals that affect them and to resolve concerns at an early stage of the application process.

Meetings must be held at least 30 days prior to the applicant presenting to the Planning Commission, the Zoning Board of Adjustment, Art Commission, or Historic Review Commission (HRC).

Any comments on a project presented at a DAM of the SSCC should be emailed to the SSCC at: info@southsidecommunitycouncil.org. 

Comments on a project to come before the HRC may be emailed to: historicreview@pittsburghpa.gov. Alternately, a letter may be sent to: 400 Ross St., 4th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.

For the Planning Commission, email comments to: planningcommission@pittsburghpa.gov.

The first presentation involved painting the front of a building in the East Carson St. historic district, which requires adherence to external guidelines.

"This is uncharted waters for me," said 2016 East Carson St. owner Gina Super, who already had the front of the building painted as she was not aware of the HRC process.

Nothing changed in the design, and no other changes are planned.

Bob Russ, of the local review committee (LRC), said any exterior changes in the historic district should first go before the HRC for a Certificate of Appropriateness.

He said, typically, one should not paint. Instead, the best procedure is to clean first and restore the brick. It is also to the owner's benefit as it saves on repainting every five years.

"Repainting of the brick" is the issue here, he said.

"We don't live in the city or know your procedures," said Ms. Super, especially, she added, in light of COVID-19 restrictions.

SSCC President Barbara Rudiak said the SSCC worked on historic guidelines this year, and that a letter needs to be sent to businesses and owners on those guidelines.

One of the latter is that an applicant must go before the HRC before any exterior work can be done. 

But COVID-19 delayed the work on the guidelines.

The project will be presented to the HRC on a date to be determined. 

In the next presentation, Dave McLean, of McLean Architects, discussed façade improvements to 1713 and 1715 East Carson St. The owner applied for a Certificate of Appropriateness.

A building permit was secured ahead of the review process, which was not acceptable to the reviewers.

The proposal includes the addition of a continuous awning across both buildings as there will be one business in the two buildings.

The owner is also advocating to pull unacceptable materials off the building built up over the years. Mr. McLean said there is concern about the tile coming off and what is behind it.

The project would include new raised wood panels. The existing storefront glazing will remain.

Mr. McLean asked if the tile may remain at 1715 East Carson St.

Mr. Russ said the property went through the HRC process twice over the years, and the tile was approved.

"The tile covers up original brick that was damaged, and was approved," he said.

But the one awning plan is inappropriate, according to the HRC guidelines.

"Each needs to stand on its own merit," he said of one awning per building as opposed to one across two buildings.

Ms. Rudiak said local residents really appreciate the historic designation of East Carson St., and the quality of life enhancement of gazing upon the historic buildings.

"We do need to do a better job, and will do so," she said of informing owners of the HRC guidelines.

"We are extremely fortunate to have the local review committee," she said.

The project will be presented to the HRC on a date to be determined. 

Next, Jen Bee, of Desmone Architects, discussed the proposed project for 2529 East Carson St.

It includes the renovation of existing property to accommodate two new residential units on the first level. The developer is seeking a Certificate of Appropriateness.

The project involves removing the existing ATM and other bank-related accessories for a new storefront opening.

The existing window awnings would be removed. A new window and new exterior door would be added.

Two attendees commented when the SouthSide Works was designed this area was conceived as retail, which is a concern.

Mr. Russ said this was outside HRC concerns but is a SouthSide Works concern.

"We're in uncharted waters. There's nothing in the guidelines to tell us what to do here," he said.

The community has to decide if there is support for turning these into residential although they were designed as commercial, he said.

LRC member John Martine said changing from retail to residential has already been done in the complex.

"The precedent has been set. I'm not in opposition," he said.

Concerns were raised of a possible bus stop in front of the property, which would bring fumes and the annoyance of having people standing in front of the residence at all hours.

Additionally, the entrance is via an alleyway, which raised safety concerns that it might be best to keep the entrance on East Carson St.

Ms. Bee said she would look into the residential entrance matter.

The proposal will appear before the HRC and the Planning Commission, the latter for final land development approval.

The last presentation was by architect Philip Wilkinson on the addition of a dog park at SouthSide Works' Tunnel Park.

The proposal is for a new 42-feet fence, and two enclosures: one for large dogs and one for small dogs. Dog obstacles will serve as "gyms for dogs," Mr. Wilkinson said. 

The area will have three entrances. The existing site trees will remain.

For dogs' owners and visitors, there will be a café serving plaza and seating. Benches throughout the dog park will allow for respite and viewing.

To a question about dog park maintenance, Mr. Wilkinson said "it is in our best interest to keep it as clean as possible," so as to attract more dog walkers and visitors.

An attendee commented she thinks it is great as she sees so many people with dogs in the area now.

Mr. Russ expressed concern about the surface.

"Grass is beautiful as long as it lasts," he said.

The project will appear before the Planning Commission.

The next DAM meeting of the SSCC will be on Oct. 22.

 

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