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Development engulfs North Shore parking spaces

Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review - This parking lot on the North Shore, known as Gold Lot 2, is closing as construction starts on a pair of three-story office buildings. Taken Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Heidi Murrin  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>This parking lot on the North Shore, known as Gold Lot 2, is closing as construction starts on a pair of three-story office buildings. Taken Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review - This parking lot on the North Shore, known as Gold Lot 2, is closing as construction starts on a pair of three-story office buildings. Taken Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013. Taken Saturday, August 24, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Heidi Murrin  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>This parking lot on the North Shore, known as Gold Lot 2, is closing as construction starts on a pair of three-story office buildings. Taken Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013. Taken Saturday, August 24, 2013.
Monday, Aug. 26, 2013, 10:58 p.m.
 

The Pittsburgh Stadium Authority must build another parking garage on the North Shore as development puts space at a premium.

Two new buildings in a lot near Heinz Field and Stage AE, and other construction along North Shore Drive, will gobble up 541 parking spots, said authority Executive Director Mary Conturo.

“Needing another garage means development has been successful, and that's a good thing,” Conturo said.

The authority must build another garage under a 2003 agreement with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Steelers and Continental Real Estate Cos. of Columbus, Ohio, which has exclusive rights to develop land between PNC Park and Heinz Field. A November 2011 amendment to the agreement stipulated that after the completion of Continental's latest development dubbed North Shore Place I & II, which will occupy 230 parking spaces in Gold Lot 2, the Stadium Authority must start planning for a garage, Conturo said.

The authority will complete a parking study in the fall of 2014 to help determine when and where to build the garage. Conturo hoped to have the details confirmed by spring of 2015.

The Stadium Authority opened the 1,321-space West General Robinson Street Garage in 2006. Early low occupancy rates made it the target of criticism, but the opening of the North Shore Connector between Downtown and Heinz Field helped boost occupancy to more than 95 percent during the work week, said Alco Parking President Merrill Stabile. Alco manages the garage.

“Any further development will require more parking,” Stabile said.

He believes the garage should be privately financed and not built with taxpayer dollars.

Parking on the North Shore has a split personality. During the day, Monday through Friday, commuters heading Downtown dot the lots but do not fill them. Lots that Alco owns surrounding the stadium have 400 to 500 empty spaces daily, Stabile said.

The Carnegie Science Center, which started allowing people to park in its overflow lot after the light-rail extension opened, gets 300 to 400 commuters a day, said spokeswoman Susan Zimecki. That's a huge increase from a year ago, when 70 to 80 commuters used the $6-a-day lot.

“We're not at the point, as far as the commuter parking market, where you could justify more spaces,” Stabile said. “But Steelers games, there was never enough parking on the North Shore, and there probably never will be.”

Although lined with fencing, Gold Lot 2 remained open for the Steelers preseason game Saturday night. Stabile said it would likely be the last time Steelers fans can park there.

Barry Ford, president of development for Continental, hopes construction will start next month on North Shore Place I and II, a two-building, three-story project in a parking lot along North Shore Drive between Tony Dorsett Drive and Chuck Noll Way.

Restaurants Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill, North Park Lounge and Cabana Bar, and Burgatory are scheduled to open on the first floor. Continental has not found tenants for the office space.

“We're talking to lots of folks,” Ford said.

He has no definite plans for when the next phase of development on the North Shore will start. Continental is looking at two parking lots, one on the riverfront next to the Del Monte buildings and one next to the Hyatt Place hotel on North Shore Drive. Stadium Authority officials estimate those developments could eliminate an additional 311 spots.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

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