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Firms Pitch Building Plans for Garden Theater Area

By Bill Vidonic
Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The owner of a central North Side business only wanted to hear one issue addressed Monday about the redevelopment of the block surrounding the vacant Garden Theater.

“Parking, parking, parking,” said Irene Karavolos, co-owner of Steve’s New York Hot Dogs on Federal Street. “You can’t bring in more businesses when little businesses already are starving for parking.”

More than 200 people crowded into an auditorium at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh to hear several proposals for the block surrounding the former X-rated theater, with five developers promising to spend tens of millions of dollars to revitalize the blighted section of the North Side.

All submitted proposals calling for a mix of retail and residential development; two called for the partial or complete destruction of the vacant Garden Theater auditorium.

Kirk Burkley, president of Northside Tomorrow, which is coordinating redevelopment efforts, said the Garden wouldn’t vanish entirely under any of the proposals. City and national historical designations mean the building’s facade must be preserved.

“This project affects more than just the central North Side,” Burkley said.

North Side resident Matt Long said he’d like to see the Garden restored as an independent filmhouse.

“I don’t think retail would be what I’d put there,” Long said.

Tom Hardy, a consultant with Northside Tomorrow, said a decision could come in the next couple of months.

“We have some momentum now,” Hardy said. “There’s an interest in keeping that momentum going.”

North Side visions

Development proposals for the Garden Theater block:

• Barron Commercial Real Estate, Pittsburgh: Demolish the former Garden Theater auditorium, but preserve and restore the remaining historic properties into a mix of housing and retail development.

• Wells and Company, Spokane, Wash.: Restore the Garden Theater auditorium for a performing arts center; build apartments in the former Masonic building, along with a first-floor restaurant/brew pub; and restore buildings along West North Avenue and Reddour Street.

• Zukin Development Corp., Philadelphia: Create retail space, including a specialty grocery store, by demolishing part of the Garden Theater; create retail space and apartments in the Masonic Hall, the Bradberry apartment building and other properties.

• Aaron Stubna and William Porco, Coraopolis: Convert the Garden into a multi-purpose theater hosting live entertainment and films.

• Resaca LLC, Pittsburgh: Redevelop the Bradberry into 16 one-bedroom apartments.

Source: Northside Tomorrow LLC

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633