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Squirrel Hill development dropped

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By Sam Spatter
Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010

A plan for a $50 million development at a key Squirrel Hill intersection apparently has been dropped.

Development firm Cambridge Venture Partners planned to build a hotel, restaurant, stores and 20 condominiums at Forward and Murray avenues. The former Poli's restaurant and Squirrel Hill Theater buildings would have been demolished.

But now Equity Real Estate of Squirrel Hill is marketing most of the land. Cambridge "told us they were unable to secure financing for the condominium portion of a building, and that forced them to drop the project," David G. Tkacik of Equity said.

Attempts to reach principals at Cambridge and at the Downtown-based R.E. Crawford Construction firm, which was part of the partnership, were unsuccessful.

The condos were to be on the top level of a nine-story building, with the hotel in the center and retail space on the lower levels.

Bill Matthews of Howard Hanna Commercial Real Estate Services has listed the Poli's building for sale at $895,000. Packaged with an adjacent 17-space parking lot, the price is $1.395 million.

Equity is trying to sell the closed theater and other parts of the property running from 5800 to 5826 Forward Ave. The owner is Alderson-Forward Properties LLC, an investment group made up of former Pittsburgh residents.

Steve Hawkins, who was chairman of the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition when the plan was announced in 2008, still would like to see that corner redeveloped.

"A hotel would be nice since it is close to the Parkway East and in walking distance of the existing retail area," he said.

The project would have closed Tango Gelato and Cafe, which serves Argentinian coffee and foods. Patrons formed Friends of the Tango Cafe to try to preserve the restaurant, but the campaign ended when the developer didn't move forward. The cafe and Pizza Amier are the only tenants still open.

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