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Store owner stands by Parkway Center location

Thursday, July 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

It's taken customers a little time to realize that the Sports Deli store hasn't gone down with the rest of Parkway Center Mall, but owner Michael Autieri still thinks he's got the best location possible.

Having relocated from inside the now-shuttered shopping mall to a former Hollywood Video store on the mall's outskirts, business is slowly returning to the store packed with jerseys, T-shirts, hats and collectibles. It stands to benefit from any planned revamping of the mall, the renovation and rebranding of the nearby hotel as a Holiday Inn Express, and new tenants in the surrounding business park, Autieri said.

“They're finding us. ... We've done ads on the radio, in the newspaper; people just have to remember us,” Autieri said.

The mall was one of the region's premier attractions when it opened in 1982. It underwent renovations in the late 1990s, but many of its tenants slowly left or went out of business. Sports Deli was one of the last retailers inside the mall before it closed.

Autieri dismissed the possibility of moving to a livelier location, noting that his 30-year-old shop still is very convenient for South Hills shoppers and all the sports fans following the Parkway West toward PNC Park, Heinz Field, Consol Energy Center or the Petersen Events Center.

Small signs planted along the ramp from the Parkway to the mall point the way to the shop, and Autieri said he occasionally posts sales on the mall's electronic billboard seen by so many traffic-bound commuters.

Autieri said he hopes that, in addition to the hotel and office park, apartments planned for a former driving range nearby will bring new customers.

“We have the best location here ... but the mall didn't stay contemporary.”

Steve Weisbrod, vice president for development at Kossman Development Co., owners of the mall, hotel and one of the office buildings, said the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency plans to open an office with about 150 employees by September at Parkway Center.

Also, the Best Western Parkway Center is being renovated and is adding rooms on its seventh and eighth floors in preparation for the switch to Holiday Inn Express in October.

Kossman still is in the process of deciding the future of the mall. Kmart closed in January. Giant Eagle remains on the lower level. Contractors have parked construction equipment and piled up pipes and building material in other parts of the parking lot for a road project nearby.

“There's nothing concrete at this point. We're looking at redevelopment options and talking to a few people,” Weisbrod said.

The company is in discussions with potential anchor tenants with a goal of redeveloping the mall within the next two years, so formal announcements could be made in six months to two years, he said.

Since taking over management and marketing of seven buildings in the adjacent office complex about six weeks ago, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank has sought to rebrand the site; bring in new tenants such as Provident Financial Group, which has taken about 15,500 square feet in Building 7; and adjust or “right-size” existing tenants' spaces to free up square footage, said Tom McDonald, senior managing director.

After meeting with Kossman about its plans for the mall and the hotel, he, like Autieri, expressed optimism for the future of Parkway Center.

“It's absolutely going to be turning the corner,” McDonald said. “It's one of the best destinations in Pittsburgh, and it's definitely going to be reconstituted.”

Sports Deli customer Raymond Mullaney, 66, said he hadn't realized how close the shop was to his home in Westwood until his daughter, visiting from Colorado, took him there so she could stock up on Pittsburgh merchandise.

“It seems to offer just about everything, and they have good sales on Steelers items,” Mullaney said. “Their discounts on Pirates stuff is a little less. I guess that's because the team is doing well right now.”

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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