Condos in the cards
By Andrew Conte
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Even if it does not win the license for a Station Square casino, Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises likely would build its proposed neighborhood of condominiums at the entertainment complex, a company official said Friday.
The 1,250-unit condo project, unveiled last month along with plans for a $462 million Harrah’s Station Square Casino, is a “stand-alone project” that won’t need to be scaled back if the company does not open the slots parlor, Bob McGurk, Forest City’s regional development director, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The residential towers with first-floor retail shops would be built east of the Smithfield Street Bridge, and the casino would locate at the other end of Station Square. A San Francisco-style cable car would run through the center of the development.
Neighborhood groups welcome the idea of new housing, said Rick Belloli, executive director of the South Side Local Development Co. His and other South Side groups met with Forest City officials this week to discuss the casino proposal.
“The residential development is an attractive part of their proposal,” Belloli said. “You don’t want it to be just all retail and entertainment. It always strengthens a development when it’s got a variety of uses.”
But people who live in the South Side wonder what impact a Station Square expansion would have on already-congested South Side streets.
The number of casino visitors would be similar to a concert venue or Steelers game day, but visitors wouldn’t come all at once, McGurk said. Few are expected to pass through the South Side’s narrow streets, although casino employees might.
“The thing about a casino is it doesn’t have a set starting time or a set closing time,” he said. “Patrons come at various times of the day and leave at various times. You don’t have the impact of a venue letting out several thousand people at the same time.”
The casino would open with 3,000 slot machines and add another 1,000 machines in its third year. Because it might draw up to 40,000 visitors on Saturdays and up to 24,000 on weekdays, Forest City’s plans include a series of traffic management changes to ease congestion.
They include building a pedestrian bridge over West Carson Street, using part of a $5 million state grant that already has paid for a marina and riverfront walkway, widening existing streets and installing new traffic lights.
“The impact on Carson Street is going to be very little, because naturally this is a regional draw,” McGurk said.
Forest City is competing for Pittsburgh’s one slots license with Isle of Capri Casinos, based in Biloxi, Miss., which wants to put the casino in the Lower Hill District; and Detroit casino operator Don Barden, who wants to build one on the North Shore, west of the Carnegie Science Center.
The state Gaming Control Board might not pick a winner until early next year. It plans to hold a public hearing on the three local projects April 18-19 at the Omni William Penn Hotel, Downtown.
Andrew Conte can be reached at email@example.com or (412) 765-2312.
This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review © Pittsburgh Tribune Review