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Retail development needs residents

| Friday, Feb. 25, 2005

If Pittsburgh wants to increase retail development Downtown, it should increase the residential population in the Golden Triangle, local developers said Thursday.

Retail will always follow where there are residents available to shop, a panel of speakers said at an Urban Land Institute meeting on downtown residential development at the Renaissance Hotel, Downtown.

Two of the three panelists are attempting to attract more residents Downtown by building more housing.

One was Kevin Keane Sr., vice president of Lincoln Property Co., which is building a 151-unit, $36 million apartment building in the Cultural District at Fort Duquesne Boulevard and Seventh Street.

Another was Ralph Falbo, chief executive officer of Ralph Falbo Inc., which plans to begin construction in April on an 82-unit condominium along Fort Pitt Boulevard.

Empty nesters -- couples or individuals living in houses where the children have moved out -- are not the only potential residents for Downtown, they said.

"Young professionals, single women, new singles (those divorced or widowed), and executives ... are candidates," said Helen Hanna Casey, president of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, the third panelist.

Concentrating residential facilities in certain Downtown areas works best, they said. Residents want lighted areas and adjacent parking facilities. Another service needed is a grocery store, they said.

Falbo said the Market Square area, Downtown, is ideal for a grocery store.

"I, with Joe Massaro, offered to take an option on the vacant G.C. Murphy building and hopefully bring in food venders from the Strip District and elsewhere to provide enough grocery items for Downtown residents, who may want to do more extensive shopping at nearby supermarkets on weekends," he said.

The city Urban Redevelopment Authority, owner of the building, has delayed a decision on the building until a new plan for the Fifth-Forbes corridor is developed by the Dranoff Co. of Philadelphia.

Jerry Detore, acting URA executive director, said he advised Falbo to work with the Downtown Living Initiative, which is working to bring in a grocery outlet. His suggestion was more like an idea, not a concrete proposal, Detore said.

"A Downtown grocery is one of our goals, and the Market Square area is ideal for its location," said Patty Burk, program director of the Downtown Living Initiative.

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