Forest Hills lights up business district
As part of a concerted effort to bring more shoppers and pedestrians to its retail centers, Forest Hills is unveiling a proposed new look for its business district, a slower speed limit on Ardmore Boulevard and the first Light Up Night in the borough's history.
"I'm very excited about our prospects over the next three to five years," said Harvey Kart, a publisher who is head of the Forest Hills Merchant's Association, which will sponsor a Light Up Night in the borough Nov. 14.
The holiday shopping kick-off, which will feature a concert from students in the Woodland Hills School District, will start at the Ardmore Shopping Center at 6:30 p.m. and will run to 9 p.m.
Throughout the evening, refreshments, holiday lighting and the opportunity to win prizes will be offered by merchants in the Forest Hills Plaza Shopping Center, the Ardmore Shopping Center and the stretch of retail establishments down Ardmore Boulevard between Yost Boulevard and Marion Avenue.
Kart said public officials and residents in the borough are working together on a number of initiatives to improve the shopping environment.
"The Community Development Corp., the council, the mayor, the planning commission — everybody is on the same wavelength," Kart said. "We've had so many young families move into Forest Hills and we're basically saying to the newcomers and the citizens who have been here for decades, 'It's important to shop here first."
For its part, Forest Hills Council has agreed to lower the speed limit on Ardmore Boulevard between Yost and Marion from 40 mph to 35 mph in an effort to make the heavily traveled thoroughfare safer for pedestrians.
Borough Manager Steve Morus said the borough is in the process of ordering signs to post the new limit, which was approved after a PennDOT study of the district's traffic and pedestrian patterns.
And drawings by architect Richard Glance that envision a new look and safer pedestrian crosswalks for that section of Ardmore are now on display in the borough council chambers.
The borough used a $50,000 Community Development Block Grant from Allegheny County to pay for the first phase of Glance's work.
Glance said his firm is thinking about ways to add better lights and landscaping to Ardmore Boulevard, and to make better use of vacant buildings and open spaces on that stretch of Ardmore.
"It's more than just painting the facades of the building and putting shutters on," Glance said.
He said a building on Marion and Ardmore with a large showroom that formerly housed a Studebaker dealership is of particular interest. He said that building could be converted to a retail or commercial use on the first floor and housing on the second floor.
Both Glance and Kart said borough planners are aware of competition from the Waterfront development, which is just over the hill and across the Monongahela River in Homestead, Munhall and West Homestead. Additional competition for consumers comes from Wal-Mart, which is just across the Westinghouse Bridge in North Versailles.
"We can't stop you from going to the Waterfront and the Wa-lMart — but first shop at Forest Hills and then go to the Waterfront," Kart said.