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East Liberty’s Broad Street getting face-lift

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Jeremy Boren
Friday, June 8, 2007

East Liberty’s Broad Street once was little more than a drug-trafficking depot sandwiched between two nuisance bars and a few tumble-down buildings, city officials said Thursday.
But that’s changing with new attention from police, Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority and developers such as Edward Lesoon of The Wedgwood Group, which is renovating five Broad Street buildings in hopes of attracting retailers and restaurateurs.

“What we have done is taken the seed, or the core of East Liberty, and we’re going to make it blossom,” said Lesoon, as he stood yesterday in the partially renovated, three-story Hart Building.

He hopes the building will attract a company that wants to put in office space or a store once he completes more than $250,000 in improvements to the facade and interior, including a new elevator.

The key is to beautify Broad Street with building renovations and more than $300,000 in public and private money for street resurfacing and sidewalk amenities such as decorative lamp posts, lights and trees, city officials said.

“It’s so someone doing a curb check won’t be scared away,” said Robert Rubenstein, URA economic development director. “There’s a lot of (potential) business owners who don’t know about this yet.”

Lesoon hopes a second building he’s renovating — which once held Walsh’s Bar, a nuisance bar with an art-deco theme — will turn into a family restaurant.

Pittsburgh real estate marketer CB Richard Ellis is looking for businesses to move into buildings in a three-block section of Broad Street renovated by Wedgwood and other companies.

State Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Lawrenceville, was on hand yesterday with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to dedicate the URA’s facade-improvement program. He applauded the street’s building owners for agreeing to contribute money to fixing the crumbling street and sidewalks.

Finding people to patronize a new restaurant or clothing store in East Liberty’s core likely won’t be difficult, said Rob Stephany, East Liberty Development Inc.’s director of commercial development.

Stephany said there will be many new residents living nearby soon in two large mixed-income housing developments planned for either side of the improved section of Broad Street, which is between North Sheridan Avenue and North Beatty Street.

Developer McCormick Barrons is working on leasing 120 homes in what will be a 200-home residential development; and ELDI will begin construction next year on Mellon’s Orchard South, an 80-home mixed-income development.

“Broad Street is going to be more defined by the people who can walk it,” Stephany said.

People will want to shop there now that crime is under control and new development is coming, he said.

“It was for a long time completely miserable,” Stephany said. “It’s a totally different place.”

Jeremy Boren can be reached at or (412) 765-2312.

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