South Side DAM meeting concerns Rite Aids in S.S. Historic District
August 31, 2021
The August 19 virtual development activities meeting (DAM) of the South Side Community Council (SSCC) featured two presentations regarding Rite Aid: at 1915 E. Carson St. and at 2655 E. Carson St.
Both proposals will be presented to the Historic Review Commission (HRC) as both properties are within the E. Carson St. Historic District.
The moderators were SSCC President Barbara Rudiak and senior city planner Stephanie Joy Everett.
The SSCC became an RCO (Registered Community Organization) through the Dept. of City Planning in Jan., 2020. As such, the SSCC may provide community input on development activities and planning processes.
A DAM affords 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.
For more information on the RCO and the historic guidelines visit: http://www.southsidecommunitycouncil.org
Any comments on a project presented at a DAM of the SSCC should be emailed to the SSCC at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To provide public comment to the HRC, email testimony to email@example.com. The testimony must be received by one business day before the meeting.
Letters may also be sent to: 200 Ross St., 4th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15219, and received by two business days before he meeting.
The first presentation was about after-the-fact approval of the painting of the Rite Aid pharmacy facade at 1915 E. Carson St.
Proposed façade changes in the historic district need to go through the HRC for approval before they may be undertaken.
Dean Yovichin, an architect in a firm representing Rite Aid, said its sign package was approved, which incorrectly led Rite Aid to assume that everything had been approved. He called it a “misunderstanding” by Rite Aid.
The brick was painted an off-white and darker color at the base. He said the new color “appears to be in context with the neighborhood” as some nearby shops have the same color.
Bob Russ, of the local review committee (LRC), asked if a Certificate of Appropriateness had been issued for the signage. Mr. Yovichin said he did not know.
Mr. Russ is part of the five-member LRC, an advisory group. He said the LRC will try to advise Mr. Yovichin so he can go through the HRC process.
He is looking now to determine where the “ball dropped” or if the city process is flawed.
Ms. Rudiak said when a resident submitted a 311 complaint because the building was painted the response was that a permit was issued for new signage, not painting.
Mr. Russ said he does not see any problem with the signage.
To a question from Mr. Russ if he was familiar with the historic guidelines, Mr. Yovichin said he was not.
Mr. Russ said the building should not have been painted for numerous reasons, such as to protect the brick, and the surface becomes a maintenance issue if painted.
“It is a violation of the guidelines,” he said.
At the HRC, Rite Aid may be asked to restore the façade with the original brick brought back. It has happened before in similar situations, he said.
“You won’t be alone there,” he said.
Ms. Rudiak said earlier this year the SSCC sent a letter to property owners informing them that façade changes in the historic district need to go to the HRC to see “what was permissible and what would not be.”
The owner of the Rite Aid property would have received the historic district guidelines, she said, and which have been in effect “for many many years.”
The back façade which is also in the historic district may also be an issue, Mr. Russ said. However, if it was painted before the historic district guidelines it is allowed to be repainted.
To a question of why the Rite Aid was painted, Mr. Yovichin said he cannot speak to Rite Aid’s motivation.
Another Rite Aid representative said he would look into what went wrong in the process and that “it will get fixed.” He also said the signage company must have “missed something.”
Ms. Rudiak said signage companies know the rules for signage, but not necessarily historic guidelines, zoning, and more.
Mike Clark, of the SSCC, said while the signage company applied for a permit, façade painting requires an additional permit.
The next presentation was the renovations to the SouthSide Works retail space for use as a first-floor pharmacy, 2655 E. Carson St.
The site is the former American Eagle Outfitters store.
The building was constructed on the eastern edge of the historic district.
Under the plan, Rite Aid would replace the entry door with its company’s automatic, self-opening glass door.
There would be only one entrance as it is easier for Rite Aid to maintain the store with one entrance.
The entry would be on the corner. The current door next to it would be replaced with glass.
The canopy would be removed.
Mr. Yovichin said Rite Aid is proposing to infill the area with a masonry material. The idea is to make it less confusing for pedestrians.
SomeraRoad, the developer and owner of SouthSide Works, will do the infill.
Mr. Russ said the HRC will want to see samples of the proposed material.
He also advised Mr. Yovichin to read the district guidelines and address each before meeting with the HRC.
Mr. Russ said as the building is not a “contributing” building in the district there is some flexibility in what can and cannot be done.
The plan at this time is no banners on the building, and signage above the current canopy and facing 26th St.
No alcohol would be sold. The likely hours would be 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
To a question about windows, Mr. Russ said the goal is to maximize transparency in first floor storefronts in historic district guidelines.
Elsewhere in SouthSide Works there is a balance of privacy and transparency, he said.
Security is allowed. Lighting on the corner will also be on, Mr. Russ said.
Mr. Clark said there is not a rabid case of crash and grab and run in the district so he does not feel creating a “Fort Knox” image with security is needed, to which the Rite Aid representative agreed.
Ms. Rudiak suggested that Rite Aid connect with the LRC as it will help as the company prepares to present at the HRC.
She added that sometimes businesses go three times before the HRC as they do not seek input from the LRC to help out.
The next official step is for both proposals to be presented before the HRC.
The next DAM of the SSCC is scheduled for Sept. 16, although no presentations are planned at this time.