Businesses propose changes at South Side DAM meeting
December 29, 2020
The sixth virtual development activities meeting (DAM) of the South Side Community Council (SSCC) featured presentations on two South Side projects, one of which is after fact as it is already in place.
The Zoom video conference was held on Dec. 17.
The projects are the mural at 2308 East Carson St., and plans for Excuses Bar and Grille, 2526 East Carson St. Both will be going before the Historic Review Commission (HRC).
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 HRC, Planning Commission, the Zoning Board of Adjustment, or the Art Commission.
Any comments on a project presented at a DAM of the SSCC should be emailed to the SSCC at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters may also be sent to: 400 Ross St., 4th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.
Regarding the mural, artist and muralist Jeremy Raymer said he did not present the plans before the project took place as he was unaware of the DAM process.
The mural features a ninja turtle, toys, candy cane, wreath, gift boxes, and more. Mr. Raymer said a street artist from Memphis known as Birdcap designed the mural as a memorial to honor his mother as a "giver of gifts."
Last Christmas was the artist's mother's final Christmas prior to her death.
The bottom right of the mural reads: Last Christmas. R.I.P. Mary Roy. A heart appears next, and beside the name Michael Roy.
The name Birdcap is in the top right corner.
Mr. Raymer said the gifts on the mural represent all of the Christmas gifts Mrs. Roy bought over the years for her children, including the artist.
A participant said he walked past the mural numerous times and wondered, "What does it mean?" After hearing the storyline, it makes sense, he said.
He suggested erecting a plaque explaining what the mural represents.
Mr. Raymer said he would be happy to create a plaque, and that others have suggested the same thing.
He also said he commissioned the work, and that the artist was drawn to the site as he wanted a large wall on which to tell his story. The materials used were of the highest quality, Mr. Raymer said.
SSCC President Barbara Rudiak said the SSCC is notifying property owners about the historic guidelines. Business owners will also be informed of the guidelines.
One of the guidelines is that an applicant must go before the HRC before any exterior work can be done.
The historic district extends beyond the front façade. Anything visible from the street is also subject to guidelines.
"Guidelines are trying to protect historic properties," said Bob Russ of the local review committee (LRC).
It is why the guidelines are not enthusiastic about painting, he said, adding he supports well thought-out murals.
At one time South Side murals were organized through the Sprout Fund, and there was a community process. Today, there is no longer a Sprout Fund, and no process.
Murals have been removed, however, such as if they were painted over historic fabric.
To a question of who will maintain the mural, Mr. Raymer said he is happy to agree he is responsible for the next 10 years. After that time, he would be released from maintaining.
There are currently no guidelines about maintenance, involvement of the property owner, longevity, and more, but they need to be established, Ms. Rudiak said.
Mr. Raymer said an advantage to murals is that people tend not to add graffiti to them.
"I'd rather have a mural than a tag," a participant said.
Next, the proposed project for Excuses Bar and Grille was presented by architect Peter Margittai.
He said the two brothers who own Excuses asked him to work out plans to potentially allow, at a later date, for a side lot expansion.
Currently, the small building has two restrooms, and which must be brought up to code. There is a limit on how many patrons are allowed in a space, like outdoor dining, based on the restrooms.
The proposed project includes adding two glass doors and replacing one window with a door to allow for another egress.
A new side entry door and sloped walkway, through the courtyard, are planned to create a more acceptable ADA access to the building than what currently exists.
In front, the existing storefront will be repainted. The exterior masonry wall will be repainted.
The existing glass block windows will remain, as will the parking areas.
Openings will be created for an accordion-style wood folding door.
A participant commented that the dumpster in back is often overflowing, and he would like to see a formalized trash area.
To a question if the project includes redoing the rear sidewalks, Mr. Raymer said no. To a question if street trees will be added, he said he would mention it to the owners.
A participant asked if the owners mentioned purchasing the lot on the other side of the building, which is owned by an LLC. Mr. Margittai said it had not come up in discussions, but he would mention it.
If the owners decide to add a patio to increase occupancy as in a so-called Phase 2, it would require another DAM meeting.
Mr. Margittai said the idea of expanding the restrooms has been tested and, although the owners really like the idea, they are hesitant to proceed with such extensive work at this point.
Should the owners decide to enlarge the restrooms in the future, the interior and exterior spaces combined could potentially accommodate 200 occupants.
The next DAM meeting of the SSCC will be on Jan. 21, 2021.