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Door opens for 1st-floor office space in Sewickley

| Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Move over, retail.

Select nonprofits for the first time are now are permitted to use first-floor, street-view space in much of Sewickley's business district.

Sewickley Council members approved the change on Monday night in a 5-1 vote. Carole Ford voted no. Council members Charlie Driscoll, James Morrill and Todd Renner were absent.

The move now allows Village Green Partners — the nonprofit marketing and event-planning group that hosts events such as Light Up Night — to relocate to a first-floor office.

Organizations with a 501(c)3 nonprofit status would be required to open at least 50 percent of the floor space they occupy to the public.

Village Green President Jennifer Markus said she would submit a conditional use application for her group to be located in storefront space at 611-613 Beaver St. — a building she purchased last year with the intention of relocating the nonprofit's office from its most recent spot on the third floor of a building in the 400 block of Beaver Street.

Markus said the group would operate a “welcome center” for the business district and an art gallery space.

Council member Ford said she was “concerned that we are opening a can of worms” by permitting nonprofits to rent street-level space within the business district.

“If you look at this list of all of these nonprofits and even though (Markus) said they have their own space, (she said) they might want more space,” Ford said, responding to a list of nonprofit groups Markus read that now could have the ability to move into the business district. “I don't think we want our village to become art galleries and museums.”

Markus said the move “should benefit the building owners with properties in the Village Overlay by increasing the pool of potential tenants while keeping the character of the Village.”

Building owner and lawyer Cliff Krey — who disagreed with the change — said the borough continues to violate the Americans with Disabilities Act by not requiring groups moving in to update building access to comply with the federal act.

“The Village Overlay sets up obstacles, which directly affect handicapped people,” he said. “I don't think this has been thought out.”

Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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