Hill District Shop 'n Save seeking funding
$3.6 million needed to open store in April 2013
Published: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Updated: Thursday, August 30, 2012 00:08
The Hill District’s Shop ‘n Save’s expected opening has been pushed back to April 2013 because of another $3.6 million needed in funds.
While the ceremonious groundbreaking of the Hill District shopping center on Centre Avenue and Heldman Street was held in April 2011, construction of the site’s buildings has not begun. An Oct. 5, 2011, Duke article reported that the grocery store, the first for the Hill District in almost 30 years, was to open by April 2012.
Environmental issues of weather and the soil the site was upon caused the project to not meet that deadline.
The project has been delayed again because the funds for the project must be accounted for in full prior to construction, according to the Hill House Association’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Anderson. The Hill House is the non-profit organization which is both owner and developer of the shopping center. Of the $11.6 million predicted cost of the project, $3.6 million is still needed.
Jeff Ross, the independent grocer who will operate the Hill District’s Shop ‘n Save, said a stipulation of the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) requires that all funds for a project as big as the Centre Avenue shopping center to be committed prior to distribution for the project.
“What has hampered the green light is that nothing can happen until all the funds are in,” Ross said. “One good thing is that a lot of that work has been done.”
The money that was spent on the underground preparation work for the site, which included sewage and electric, according to Ross, has been included in the $11.6 million total projected cost.
State Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Hill District), who has been involved in the Hill House’s project since the beginning, said changes in leadership, contractors and the Hill House’s inexperience with projects of this size has led to delays along with the lack of funding. Environmental costs, such as the soil problems that caused earlier delays, were not considered in the original estimates, he said.
“It’s more of a matter of getting all the pieces into place,” Wheatley said.
In terms of funding, according to Wheatley, the state was the first to become involved with the project and has been working closely with the Hill House and the URA to obtain all the funds as soon as possible so that construction can begin. Wheatley said Pennsylvania has provided $1.5 million to get the project “up and running.”
“It is simply a matter of funding ... The state, with my help, was the first investor in this,” Wheatley said.
Wheatley also said the State is working to introduce a corporate partner for the Hill House in order to close the funding gaps through tax credits. He said he is optimistic that with the right corporate partner, all of the funding could be in place by October.
Anderson said the process of acquiring funds for the project has been difficult because of the unknown total cost of the project when it first began.
“At this particular time, [the delay] is just the funds,” Anderson said. “There are a lot of funds in place, but they can’t be released.”
According to Anderson, the Hill House has not put together an exact timeline for the project yet because it is uncertain where the remaining $3.6 million will come from as well as unpredictable weather delays for the construction. The construction of the shopping center alone he said will take seven to eight months, making April or early May the target date for the opening.
“We are working feverishly and as quickly as possible to get the funds,” Anderson said.