South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

South Side Community Council outlines changes, elects new board members

 

October 6, 2020



The fall general meeting of the South Side Community Council (SSCC) featured board elections; an overview of the changes planned for SouthSide Works; reorganization of the SSCC; updates on the Carson St. infrastructure project and the South Side Parking Enhancement District (PED); and the local crime report.

The Zoom video conference on Sept. 28 included city Councilman Bruce Kraus.

Reelected board members are Joe Bielecki, Robert Cavalier, Mary Dowd, Jacky Kaiser, Sonya Kohnen, Adrian Smith, Ryan Vanston, and Frank Vitale. 

Newly elected board members are Mike McKay and Doug Artze.

The first speaker was Jonathon Reeser, vice president – acquisitions, Somera Road, the new owner of SouthSide Works. He provided a general overview of their vision for the area.

He said the company views SouthSide Works not as a mall-type environment, or for national retailers, but as a community retail center that meets residents' daily needs and conveniences, like food operations or dry cleaners, in addition to new entertainment and new food/beverage and retail options.

"We need a cohesive environment that interacts with each other," he said.

The goal is a "vibrant community," he said.

To a question of how flexible Somera Road will be with rent structures, such as for affordable boutiques, Mr. Reeser said "we can do good deals and provide good pricing."

"We're willing to be creative to bring the right people to the space," he said.

Among the proposals is a renovation of the Town Square at SouthSide Works, 445 S. 27th St. with green space options and enhanced connections to the riverfront and trails. 

The site would feature a new stage; ornamental plantings; water play; movable café seating; rock scramble; brick pavers; shade sails; and more.

Another proposal is converting SouthSide Works Cinema into 75,000-square-feet office space called the South Side Works Box Office for 300 to 400 employees. It awaits Planning Commission approval.

A dog park is also proposed.

A waterfront multi-family development is coming at the end of 2021.

To a question about parking, Mr. Reeser said the New York City-based firm does not own the garages, but rather the city or the URA does.

Right now, there is no one hour of free parking, he said, but he will continue to try for that.

Mr. Kraus said he and Mr. Reeser should meet with the URA on the garages.

SSCC President Barbara Rudiak said that mid-year the SSCC began holding development activities meetings (DAM).

A DAM provides an opportunity for residents, 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.

SouthSide Works' proposed projects have been presented, including the dog park on Sept. 24.

She said Mr. Reeser and his team have been talking with the broader South Side community for input and not simply those in the SouthSide Works community.

The next DAM meeting, in which more on the SouthSide Works will be presented, will be held on Oct. 22.

"Hopefully you will like what we create," Mr. Reeser said.

Ms. Rudiak said comments to share with Mr. Reeser, or questions, should be emailed to the SSCC at: info@southsidecommunitycouncil.org. 

Next, Mr. Vanston presented the reorganization breakdown of the SSCC into four categories: administration; fundraising and community engagement; planning, zoning, licensing, and permitting; and beautification, revitalization, stabilization, and maintenance.

Regarding Administration, chair Ms. Rudiak said the category areas are: accounting and finance; technology; membership; and strategic planning.

Some of the goals of technology are to improve website infrastructure and increase social media presence.

Fundraising and Community Engagement chair Kathleen Petrillo said the category areas are: social events; fundraising; South Side Voices; university relations; and newsletters.

The highlights include: spring social, block party, Home and Garden tours; cleanups with Pitt and Duquesne University students; and providing a monthly newsletter.

The South Side Voices oral history project, in which South Siders talk about the neighborhood and its past, present, and future, is calling for residents to share their COVID stories of how the pandemic has changed their life for the better. 

Stories can be read at: http://www.southsidecommunitycouncil.org/south-side-pandemic-stories/

In Planning, Zoning, Licensing, and Permitting, a goal is to educate building owners and residents on Historic Review Commission (HRC) requirements as East Carson St. is an historic district. Another goal is to continue tracking Pa. LCB cases.

In Beautification, Revitalization, Stabilization, and Maintenance, chair Mike Clark said the focus includes South Watch, block watch, graffiti watch, Esser's Plaza, riverfront trail, South Side Park, street trees, and more.

For South Watch, 11 meetings are held a year; the main focus is code violators and working with 311 on trash.

For Esser's Plaza, a $100,000 grant from the URA was recently received.

There are now seven block watches in the South Side.

"It's amazing what the Community Council is doing these days," Mr. Kraus said in kicking off his updates.

Regarding the East Carson St. project, the city completed its $3 million investment in new lighting.

The $18 million East Carson St. safety improvement project, carried out by the state Dept. of Transportation [PennDOT], has begun.

The first phase will run from the Smithfield St. Bridge to 9th St., and include the T-station. Crosswalks will be painted at each intersection. There will be new bus stops and shelters.

Project upgrades include: milling and resurfacing; signage and signal updates; ADA ramp and guiderail installations; high visibility crosswalks; and more.

Five months are completed of the 18-month project, which will extend from the Smithfield St. Bridge to 33rd St.

"If ever there was a time to disrupt Carson St., this is it," he said of less activity/traffic due to the pandemic.

To a question of why there is a stoppage of work on the project, Mr. Kraus said he was unaware of it, but PennDOT could be running into problems under the sidewalk. But he will look into the matter.

Regarding the PED, or the enforcement of South Side Flats parking meters from 6 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, it was hit hard by the pandemic.

Mr. Kraus said PED income averaged $4,200 to $4,400 per weekend before the pandemic. A recent weekend netted $13.

But now the PED has hit a "sweet spot," he said, collecting about $10,000 a month, which covers Block by Block, or the Clean Team, retained to keep the E. Carson St. corridor maintained. 

The PED funds must be invested back in the neighborhood for public safety, cleanliness, and infrastructure improvements.

The gross meter revenue since the PED began in April, 2017, is about $700,000, which he called "an amazing success."

The next speaker was police Lieutenant Louis Caporali, who is in charge of Zone 3 until November when Commander Karen Dixon returns.

He reported there were a few local robberies the past weekend.

In one robbery, two women were confronted by a man as they approached their vehicle on East Carson St. He stole the car, which was later recovered.

An arrest was also made in a similar-style car theft attempt near the Hofbräuhaus Restaurant, and an arrest was made. When released, the suspect stole a construction vehicle and was caught again in Ohio.

In another case a homeless or drunk man tried to jump into a vehicle in the 2100 block of Carson St., and was arrested.

An arrest at Ormsby Park was of a man sleeping on the jungle gym at 1 a.m., and who had marijuana on him.

"So, we are down there," Lt. Caporali said.

 To a question about speeding motorcycles and illegal quads on East Carson St., he said the police cannot pursue them so they have to use video to identify the vehicles.

"We don't want to risk injuries by having someone run over," he said as to why they cannot be pursued. A driver may also die in a pursuit.

At prior meetings, Zone 3 Commander Karen Dixon said even with a 911 call, the riders are gone by the time officers arrive.

But videos may be submitted.

 

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