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Businesses blossoming in Steel Valley

| Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, 4:46 a.m.

The takeaway message from a Steel Valley Enterprise Zone meeting on Wednesday is that things are looking up for communities served by the non-profit organization supporting economic growth and development.

During a breakfast gathering at the Bulgarian Macedonian National Educational and Cultural Center, government and business leaders serving Homestead, West Homestead and Munhall touted recent and upcoming developments to improve the economic picture.

New businesses, commercial and residential construction, and infrastructure were among the topics.

“The investments that our group and others have done have been large and small,” SVEZ administrator Charles H. Starrett III said.

He said the group has aided multi-million dollar projects in the Waterfront and helped develop smaller businesses along Eighth Avenue and elsewhere.

He noted that the agency has closed on 26 low-interest loans worth a total of $2.6 million for businesses, which has leveraged more than $40 million in investments.

“A positive investment climate is in place here in the Steel Valley area,” Starrett said.

Starrett highlighted some of the newest businesses coming to the Steel Valley.

The consulting firm Ex3 Matters, founded by John Hobart, will open at the corner of McClure Street and E. Eighth Avenue in Homestead. Within the next several weeks, the Stay Tuned Distillery is due to open at Ravine Street and E. Eighth Avenue in Munhall and a chocolate manufacturing company, TAGH Products, is due to open at 406 E. Eight Avenue in Munhall.

Starrett listed the Dorothy 6 Blast Furnace Café at 244 E. Eighth Avenue in Homestead as one of the businesses with a planned opening on the horizon.

Dorothy 6 co-founder Olivia Crocker said her business already is offering catering services, but that she and business partner Tom Kazar need an occupancy permit before they can open as a restaurant. Crocker said she expects that will happen within the next few weeks.

When it does open, she said, it will serve what some would call American cuisine but in her opinion is “really just good Pittsburgh food.”

Carole DeAngelo, who manages the Waterfront for M & J Wilkow and its ownership partner BIG Shopping Centers USA, said the new restaurant Burgatory is being built in the shopping center and is due to open in February.

DeAngelo said the boutique Charming Charlie recently opened in the Waterfront, and Crunch Fitness Center will open its doors soon in the top half of the former Filene's Basement building. DeAngelo said the bottom portion of the building will be divided into two spaces and that an announcement is expected within the next month about the tenants.

DeAngelo said there is a tenant targeted for the vacant Dress Barn shop and that a Hometown Sports outlet is opening next month in the Town Center section of the complex.

Next year, the Waterfront is looking to a redevelopment project that would better connect the town center shops with larger retailers on the other side of the railroad tracks on Eighth Avenue, she said.

“We want to make the tie-in between the Waterfront and all the businesses over here,” she said. “If you're at the Waterfront, please do come over here and see what's happening at these businesses. Dine over here. We're all part of one.”

Homestead business manager Ian McMeans discussed efforts to better connect the Waterfront with the business district along Eighth Avenue. One measure that could help is a bike corral that the borough hopes to install in the area of Seventh Avenue and Amity Street by spring.

McMeans said the corral would give cyclists on the Great Allegheny Passage a place to park their bikes that is central to businesses along Eighth Avenue. He said the borough received a grant from Sustainable Pittsburgh, and the project has received approval from council.

Plans by developer a.m. Rodriguez Associates Inc. to build a $13 million commercial and residential project that includes a 6,000 square foot commercial building on E. Eighth Avenue were discussed. The project, which is expected to begin next year, includes rebuilding the old post office along Amity Street at Ninth Avenue and town houses along Amity Street. It will add 30 commercial units and 51 residential units to the community.

Victor Rodriguez said his company owed thanks to the enterprise zone, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, Allegheny County and Homestead.

“They've all been very supportive and helpful as we move forward,” he said.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1966, or

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