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Businesses on North Shore hope Pirates' recent success rubs off

Monday, March 31, 2014, 10:48 p.m.

Pirates season-ticket holder Audrey Verner tries to hit a different North Shore restaurant before every game she attends.

Before the sun-drenched home opener on Monday, she and her husband, Curtis, went to BZ's Bar and Grill on Federal Street. On Saturday, they'll be at SoHo across the street.

“We love having all the places to choose from, so we try to patronize them all,” said Verner, 52, of McKees Rocks, adding she gives restaurant gift certificates to friends during the winter to support the establishments ringing the ballpark during their leanest months, when few big events are scheduled.

North Shore restaurants and bars make much of their money during the Pirates' and Steelers' seasons. Stage AE has provided a boost since opening in late 2010, along with Pitt football games, Heinz Field concerts and special events such as the Pittsburgh Regatta.

But on evenings and weekends when no events are scheduled, the area often resembles a ghost town, with little pass-through traffic.

Yet, Herky Pollock, executive vice president of the real estate development firm CBRE, said he's close to closing tenant deals on two long-empty properties.

One features 5,390 square feet of street-level commercial space in the West General Robinson Street Garage, which hasn't attracted a tenant since the garage opened in 2006 despite being between two stadiums and above the Port Authority's North Shore T light-rail station. The other has nearly 25,000 square feet in the North Shore Garage on East General Robinson, most recently home to Finnigan's Wake, an Irish pub that closed about a year ago, Pollock said.

“Everything opening up around there is spawning lots of interest in the North Shore,” Pollock said, predicting news on tenant deals within 90 days.

Pollock pointed to the two, three-story buildings under construction along North Shore Drive, between Tony Dorsett Drive and Chuck Noll Way. North Shore Place I and II will include Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill, North Park Lounge, The Cabana Bar and Burgatory. The developer, Columbus, Ohio-based Continental Real Estate Cos., did not return messages on Monday.

“Having a variety and a critical mass of dining and entertainment options ... makes the area more attractive. It creates an entertainment district,” Pollock said.

Mary Conturo, executive director of the Pittsburgh Stadium Authority, which owns land between PNC Park and Heinz Field, said residential development of the area is key to giving the area “people who are there 24 hours a day” to support bars and restaurants.

The Pirates' turnaround last season was good for many North Shore establishments. During two decades of losing, many Pittsburghers tuned out the Pirates as soon as the Steelers' preseason training camp began in Latrobe. But last year, the Buccos drew the second-highest regular-season attendance in team history, and their playoff run extended the campaign by nearly two weeks, providing three added sellouts at PNC Park.

Business picked up on Opening Day where it left off last year.

“We're in our glory during the six months when the Pirates are in season,” said Tracy D'Onofrio, co-owner of The Beer Market on Federal Street.

Shoulder-to-shoulder crowds packed bars and restaurants surrounding PNC Park, with the lines at bars up to three to four people deep. Smaller crowds kept business brisk during the game. Crowds returned following the final pitch.

“Obviously, there's an increase in traffic on days like this, and there is plenty of business to go around. It's on the other days when we compete for business,” said Terry Boes, manager of Atria's Restaurant and Tavern at PNC Park.

Sean Kemmerer, entertainment coordinator at BZ's, said he welcomes development.

“We don't really look at it as competition. We want to attract as many people as possible to the North Shore. More dining and entertainment options can help do that. When that happens, everyone here wins,” Kemmerer said.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or




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