Nakama sushi bar to anchor blighted North Side block

| Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012

Developers of a long-blighted North Side block at North Avenue and Federal Street said on Friday that they signed a lease with Nakama restaurant, which should help jump-start development there.

Nakama, the popular Japanese steakhouse and sushi bar on the South Side, will take 5,000 square feet in the Masonic Temple building at North and Reddour Street, said co-developer Craig Totino.

"They are viewed as an anchor for the Federal/North project," said Totino, co-owner of Collaborative Ventures in Mt. Lebanon. The firm and Zukin Development in Philadelphia formed Allegheny City Development Group, the joint venture that's developing the block.

"Our goal is to start construction this summer and take about nine to 12 months," Totino said. "So Nakama should occupy in summer 2013 -- possibly earlier, in the spring."

The block is about a quarter-mile west of Allegheny General Hospital, bordering the Mexican War Streets neighborhood and across from West Park.

Nakama owner Bob Gones could not be reached.

"We're really excited to know that Nakama, one of the best-grossing restaurants in Pittsburgh, is confident enough in the North Side to open up a restaurant here," said Chris D'Addario, president of the Central NorthSide Neighborhood Council.

The neighborhood council has been working on redeveloping that block and the Federal/North corner for about four years, he said.

"That corner is no stranger to violence and people behaving badly, but that's changing," D'Addario said. "Just a couple hundred yards up (Federal) are beautiful town homes, and we're selling them as fast as we can build them."

"This shows that in blighted neighborhoods, government can take a lead role for private development," said Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. "We're seeing positive movement in many Pittsburgh neighborhoods."

The mayor's office has scheduled a news conference about the Federal/North project for Monday morning.

Above Nakama in the three-story limestone and brick Masonic Temple building will be about 10 two-story loft apartments, Totino said.

Right next to the building is the Garden Theatre, a shuttered adult movie house. Developers have yet to secure a tenant for that space, said Totino, but Strip District lounge owner Spencer Warren has signed a letter of intent.

Totino expects to start work this summer on the Garden Theatre, which is part of the first phase of the Federal/North project. It entails renovation of the 16 residential units in the Bradberry Building, on the same North Avenue block.

The developers are stabilizing floors and rooftops of two buildings around the corner on Federal as part of the second phase, Totino said. He is trying to attract other restaurants or professional studios as tenants.

The third phase consists of two connected buildings on North at Federal. Developers will level one and preserve the facade only on the other, then construct a four-story building on the combined parcels, Totino said.

All of the buildings are owned by the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh. The URA agreed to sell the Garden, the Bradberry and the Masonic Temple buildings to Allegheny City Development for $141,905 in November.

The URA bought the Garden for $1.1 million in 2007. It has spent about $5 million since 1994 buying adjacent properties to spur area redevelopment.

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