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Renovation of former eyesore on North Side continues with sign

| Saturday, June 14, 2014, 7:22 p.m.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Dustin Storesky of Vegely Welding stands on a flat bed truck used in the removal of the sign for the Garden Theater on North Avenue on the North Side, Saturday.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Dustin Storesky of Vegely Welding stands on a flat bed truck used in the removal of the sign for the Garden Theater on North Avenue on the North Side, Saturday.
Steven Adams | Tribune-Review
The Garden Theater block along West North Avenue in the Central North Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh. January 1, 2014.
Steven Adams | Tribune-Review
The Garden Theater block along West North Avenue in the Central North Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh. January 1, 2014.

The removal of a sign atop the former Garden Theater on Saturday is yet another step forward in the development of a former eyesore in the North Side.

Crews used a crane to gently lower the weatherbeaten “Garden” theater sign from the front of the two-story building, which is undergoing major renovations to include a restaurant.

“I like more of a neighborhood feel. I just like the idea of taking something old, maintaining its integrity and making it into something new and inviting,” said Domenick Branduzzi, who expects to open the ARDE restaurant in the fall.

The city bought the Garden Theater on West North Avenue in 2007 after a decade-long legal battle with its owner and sold the property to developers Wayne Zukin and Craig Totino.

Zukin of Philadelphia and Totino of Pittsburgh said last year they planned to spend $7 million to renovate the Garden Theater and the adjoining Masonic Temple building.

Branduzzi owns Piccolo Forno in Lawrenceville and will operate both Italian restaurants simultaneously, moving into the nearly century-old theater space. He said design changes have slowed down construction, but he hopes crews can begin work on the restaurant space by the end of the month.

The Garden Theater sign will be renovated and put back on the building, Branduzzi said. The marquee will use most of the letters from the word Garden to reflect the restaurant name, which means “glow” or “blaze” in Italian.

City of Asylum, a North Side nonprofit that provides sanctuary to exiled or politically oppressed writers, plans to open Alphabet City, a restaurant, bar, performance space, literary center and bookstore, in the temple building. The upper floors will become apartments.

Deborah Thomas, a North Side native, questioned whether a restaurant was the best use of the space. She said she would have liked to have seen the theater turned into a community center.

“There are a lot of kids around here who need something to do,” Thomas said.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621.

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