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Market Square’s makeover shifts into high gear this week

Monday, June 30, 2008

Market Square’s transition is in full swing.

Dunkin Donuts opens there at 6 a.m. today. Moe’s Southwest Grill will open Thursday. A dark, romantic bar is to follow later this summer.

In addition, a veteran restaurant, Buon Giorno, is dressing up for a higher profile. Renovations are ongoing to add a second-story deck that has passed the city’s historic review. And the former Mick McGuire’s will become a wine, cheese and dessert bar called Sante — with an accent on the “e” — later this summer beside the 1902 Landmark Tavern.

Of Sante, Mike Edwards, president and chief executive officer of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, said, “It is supposed to be very romantic. So dark you have to be close” to see each other.

Dunkin Donuts brings another choice of coffee and baked goods within a stone’s throw of Nicholas Coffee, Crazy Mocha, Bruegger’s Bagel Bakery and Starbucks.

When questioned about a possible glut of caffeine choices, Robin Frederick, vice president of marketing and human resources for Dunkin Donuts, said Market Square was an attractive site for the company’s expansion.

“We’re going to do what we do best and hope they do too,” she said of the competitors.

Mr. Edwards said Market Square’s renovation plans have generated “a lot of public buy-in and set a direction for investors to make confident decisions.” He said the years of debate over the Fifth and Forbes make-over stagnated Market Square’s.

“Now we have direction,” he said, citing a $1 million “Paris-to-Pittsburgh” grant from the Colcom Foundation to match up to $25,000 the cost of any restaurant renovation that opens it to the outside. The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership is administering the grants, which will enable “use of the city the way it should be used, not just as an office park.”

The Paris-to-Pittsburgh grants target Downtown merchants only, he said, adding that Moe’s Southwest Grill “is probably the best use of it.”

Moe’s co-owner Mike Geiger said the restaurant will open to the outside with three bays of windows, each 15 feet wide, and six retractable awnings. It will be the first Moe’s in the city, with four others in the region.

Buon Giorno and Mixstirs, a casual restaurant that offers a range of smoothies, are also going for the Parisian look, and Mr. Edwards said other restaurants have expressed interest.

True to its name, the square becomes a marketplace every Thursday through Oct. 23, with vendors selling fresh produce, baked goods, salsas and other items, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Fifth and Market project, in which Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation has invested, is also under way and will include several condominiums.

“There’s a maturing going on in Downtown Pittsburgh,” said Mr. Edwards, citing restaurants that have broadened and elevated diners’ tastes. “All the huge, great wonderful projects are important,” he said, but the smaller ones are the connective tissue that will keep making the city compelling.

Diana Nelson Jones can be reached at or 412-263-1626.
First published on June 30, 2008 at 12:00 am
Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

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