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Chicago developer proposes hotel at Edge restaurant site

| Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Chicago businessman wants to put a 140-room hotel, about 60 condominiums, a restaurant, a parking garage, a fitness center and a spa at the site of the former Edge restaurant atop Mt. Washington.

The multimillion-dollar proposal comes from Steven Beemsterboer, who hopes to succeed where a number of others have failed in developing the hillside property on Vinecliffe Street and adjacent to the Monongahela Incline.

"At this time, the layout of the site and the proposed uses are extremely conceptual, but we have been working with city planning and the neighborhood on the project," said Beemsterboer, who is one of three partners in Beemsterboer Slag Co. in Chicago.

Construction may not begin for up to two years and may take up to five years to complete, he said during a meeting with a number of neighborhood residents near the project site Sunday.

Beemsterboer declined to estimate the cost of the project. It is the latest in a series of proposals for the site that have been presented since The Edge closed in 1979.

Probably the most ambitious plan came from William Kershbaumer of Fox Chapel, who wanted to build a Ritz-Carlton Hotel with up to 350 rooms and a 1,000-seat ballroom. That project died for lack of funding plus neighborhood opposition.

Another plan proposed by late James Blandi, then owner of LeMont Restaurant, included a 100-room hotel, a 100-seat restaurant and a jazz club.

Also, a group of religions and business leaders proposed to build religious center featuring a statue of Jesus Christ overlooking the city, and Dan Kesneck another developer, proposed putting 10 residential condominiums with a high-end day spa on the bottom floor there.

Beemsterboer is working with architect Luke Desmone of Desmone & Associates Architects of Lawrenceville. It was Desmone who first advanced a concept several years ago that is the basis of his development.

"I look on this development as a legacy for my children, who will be able to say their dad built it," said Beemsterboer. He is married to Cynthia Bognar, a Pittsburgh native, whose family still lives in the area.

He said he has a contract under the name Steven B. Beemsterboer Inc. to purchase the property from Dr. Francis Hurite, a Fox Chapel ophthalmologist who owns The Edge. Finalizing the deal depends on the results of further study and soil testing, he said.

The developer already reduced the size of the 14-story hotel from 200 rooms to its current 140 rooms after meetings with local residents.

To gain better access to the site, Beemsterboer has purchased a number of other properties along Vinecliffe Street, which is located directly behind the Edge property and south of East Sycamore Street.

To improve the traffic flow around and into the site, the development plan suggests widening Wyoming Street from Grandview Avenue to East Sycamore and providing new entrances into the site from Wyoming and East Sycamore Street.

"Although the developer has reduced the number of hotel rooms ... the project still is extremely dense," said Lynne Squilla, former president of the Mt. Washington Community Development Corp.

The project has the potential of creating "a monolithic wall between the neighborhood and the skyline," said Squilla, who remains a board member of the community group.

Diane Delmer has been among a number of neighborhood residents who have said they'd like to see the Edge demolished. She's a member of Citizens Against Irresponsible Property Management, another Mt. Washington group.

However, she declined comment on Beemsterboer's project until she has a chance to review his plans.

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