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Housing markets expected to sustain Hill District supermarket

Jeremy Boren
| Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

Growing housing markets in the Hill District and Downtown will sustain a long-delayed Shop 'n Save grocery store, leaders said on Thursday as they announced construction would begin by month's end.

The $11.5 million, full-service grocery store on Centre Avenue is scheduled to open next year.

“A grocery store like this will end up serving a lot of people,” said Pittsburgh City Councilman Daniel Lavelle, who represents the Hill and Downtown.

The store would be a short walk for residents of another long-envisioned housing and retail project at the abandoned New Grenada Theatre between Centre and Wylie avenues, he said.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority on Thursday authorized a private development group, led by Ralph Falbo and Michael Polite, to move forward with plans to build 51 one- and two-bedroom apartments in the historic theater building and 7,200 square feet of street-level retail space.

Before the $16 million project can happen, the developers must obtain about $11 million in low-income housing tax credits from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, which is expected to announce its 2013 awards in March.

“This will fuel the redevelopment of the commercial corridor,” Marimba Milliones, head of the Hill Community Development Corp., told URA board members.

Elsewhere in the Hill and Uptown, Lavelle said hundreds of new housing units are becoming available on Dinwiddie Street, in the former Fifth Avenue High School and Shanahan buildings on Fifth Avenue, and at the redeveloped Addison Terrace public housing project.

“The message to residents of the Hill District is: “This is your grocery store, take ownership of this store, take pride in this store, support this store and shop in this store,' ” Robert Rubinstein, acting executive director of the URA, said during a news conference in the Hill House Association's Kaufmann Center, across the street from where the store will be built.

Until late October, organizers were roughly $3.75 million short in confirmed funding to build the store.

The final contributors were a mix of public, private and nonprofit sources. Those include $1.9 million in new-market tax credits facilitated by PNC Bank and the URA; a $789,000 federal Office of Community Services grant; $400,000 from The Heinz Endowments; $365,000 in Rivers Casino gambling money in the Hill District Growth Fund; and $300,000 from McAuley Ministries, the grant-making arm of Pittsburgh Mercy Health System.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and the URA are contributing $1 million each to the project. Store operator Jeff Ross is investing $1 million to buy equipment and inventory.

Jeremy Boren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7935 or

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