FRIENDS WHO LIVE IN FRIENDSHIP, GARFIELD, EAST LIBERTY, SHADYSIDE, BLOOMFIELD, HIGHLAND PARK; AND/OR THOSE WHO ENJOY THE ARTS AND LIVELY PENN AVE CORRIDOR COMMUNITY -PLEASE READ THIS!!!
I was informed that a developer is trying to built an "Autozone" in the old Babyland Site (intersection of Penn Ave and Negley). The Community Groups in the area (Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation among them), are opposing this being developed there, and are asking for variances that would stop this from happening that would further deteriorate the value of our business district's most important gateway.
As the people who live, eat, shop, walk, bike commute and enjoy this corridor, I am contacting you because you are stakeholders nearby and have a vested interest in that corner being more pedestrian friendly, and welcoming. The ZBA hearing is June 5 at 9:20am Downtown, and the community groups are looking for people to attend and have their voice heard.
Please contact me if you are interested in showing up to the zoning hearing so I can direct you to who's organizing these efforts -they can certainly use all the community support we can get. Please pass this information along to other residents and stakeholders who you think would oppose such a use for the site.
Per notice made, they are planning to actually demolish the Babyland AND the (2) buildings next to it after its parking, which means they would take most of the entire block and will only leave the Dance Alloy Theater.... this is awful!!!!
The community can stop this if they speak up about it & their concerns!!!
Please attend the Hearing on June 5, 2014 - 9:20am 200 Ross Street - Downtown Pittsburgh!!
There's already an Autozone not far into Wilkinsburg on Penn. What exactly is their reason for building one not 3 miles away?
For what I heard they will close that one after they open this one... however I would say that they should keep the other one open and not bother with this location!
I guess the fierce competition in the auto-parts market has forced them to move closer to the Advanced Auto Parts nearby.
Can you explain what the problem with the AutoZone is? Is just an issue of aesthetics? Do they tend to cause other kinds of problems?
I think aesthetics is a big issue - a lot of their buildings are drab gray painted cinder block buildings with few if any windows along with their generic 90s video game-inspired logo. Additionally, their clientele must also be terrible at driving as all of their stores have concrete pillars to prevent people from crashing into the stores themselves.
You could ask AutoZone to make a more aesthetically pleasing building. The intersection of Negley and Penn is busy as fuck. I don't see that being a great place for eating or walking anytime soon.
Also, are the people who live on Penn Ave and surrounding areas ditching their cars? What I'm saying is, if they're driving, which they are, why not have a car place close by? How many people are walking or riding their bike to the glass lofts? If not there, it's going to be in another neighborhood. Might as well have a car place at a busy car intersection
Penn & Negley is a horrid, car-centric intersection. It is completely out of character for that neighborhood; it's simply a tentacle of the urban renewal blight that strangled East Liberty.
I mostly go through there along Negley or Penn->Negley from the west. Neither is pleasant on a bike. A parking lot + box on the corner will not improve it (btw, what are they building on the NW corner? I forget.)
A better auto lot would be that abandoned gas station up on Negley. I'd bet it's cheaper to buy. And zoned to suit.
Apart from the former/future something or other on the opposite side, everything there is either residential or walk-in businesses. An auto business will degrade the quality of life.
And while I'm at it, the double lanes of Penn to the Circle simply encourage dangerous driving and speeding. The right-hand lane should be converted into a dedicated bicycle lane (and stretched up the hill, since the road was widened up to there).
@pierce re: I don’t see that being a great place for eating or walking anytime soon. & How many people are walking or riding their bike to the glass lofts?
There already are a couple of restaurants there which I like to walk to (Salt of the Earth & Verde). I wouldn't mind another rather than an Autozone. Additionally, trying to cross Penn to get to these places from Friendship is not the most pleasant experience. I'd rather not lose hope for this section of Penn and hand it over to Motordom.
IMO, not so much the store itself, but the idea of adding any significant amount of surface parking to that neighborhood, which is just now recovering from that malignancy, is complete bullshit and should not be permitted.
The next thing to go up would be signs saying "Parking for Autozone customers only", which would be the ultimate kick in the neighborballs.
Y'see, what we do is, demand that they install a bike corral outside the place. Idea being, if your car is busted, you're going to want to get there on a bike, not another car.
I like to giggle every time I go down Steubenville Pike between Campbells Run Rd and Beaver Grade, and see that bus stop in front of the Dodge dealership. That bus stop is there because I requested it be put there when my house was there. The house is gone, replaced by the dealership, but the bus stop remained.
Also, are the people who live on Penn Ave and surrounding areas ditching their cars? What I’m saying is, if they’re driving, which they are, why not have a car place close by? How many people are walking or riding their bike to the glass lofts? If not there, it’s going to be in another neighborhood. Might as well have a car place at a busy car intersection
There are two car places within a half mile of that intersection. Advanced Auto Parts on Stanton and Highland and Broadway Parts by Broad and Centre. Are there really no places in the already-developed section of East Lib? Do they really need to knock down buildings to build parking right next to a neighborhood?
I'd just like to point out that nothing else on that particular block is residential. Across the street is a muffler/brake shop. The next block has a beer distributor. It's a mixed residential / commercial area. It's not a quiet residential area.
Maybe the developer could tone down the development, make it more compatible with the neighborhood?
So AutoZone just sells parts for cars and people around that area drive cars and I'm assuming like buying parts for their cars. What's the problem?
What percentage of people are walking or cycling versus driving to the other locations on the block? Like the dance theater or the lofts, etc, etc.
I'm going to guess why the BGC gives a shit. Having an AutoZone doesn't raise property values around it. All the BGC cares about is buying properties for cheap and then sitting on rising property values. It's probably annoyed it doesn't have the cash to buy these lots.
I'm going to take another guess too. The kind of people who shop at AutoZone aren't the kind of people the BGC wants in the neighborhood. I.E. people who make less than 60k a year or something. People who don't take their cars to dealerships or who actually have to fix their cars because they have older cars that need fixing. I.E. a lot of people who live in the surrounding areas. People who don't eat at Verde or NaCL or whatever.
And also, if having two auto places nearby is a reason not to have another one, wouldn't the same be true for another restaurant? The only difference is, one thing you're interested in buying and another you're not. But that's not enough justification to try and block a business. If that we're the case, 90% of businesses I would be telling people to fight over
That's partially wrong, Jonawebb...
That block where the Autozone would be is only technically "half" a block divided by an alley way. After that alley way is all residential.
Also, the Dance Alloy Theater Building (on that block) is actually a multi-purpose space that also houses 2 small businesses and has tenant appartments. Plus, the theater is used for not only theater/shows, but as a meeting space for community groups, children and senior yoga classes, etc..... so it is rather more of a Community center than a commercial place
As someone who lives in that area, I can testify that it is a very neighborhood/residential place during the day, with more commercial-pedestrian traffic in the evening for the restaurants and such.
In the mornings in that intersection I see constant people waiting for the bus (there are 6-7 buses that go through there and are heavily occupied); there are kids waiting for school buses in both sides of the street, there are tons of cyclists commuting coming from Highland Park, cars, etc.....
To have this in that location (or similar), makes me wanna puke.
This is what a typical Autozone looks like:
What we need there is a different type of commercial space -or mix use, that actually has more space for pedestrians, greenery, a bus shelter, etc....
I really feel that having this development to be allowed there, will diminish all the hard work that the communities along that corridor have made to make it more vibrant and safe for everyone
If people don't think this is a major issue -that's fine, to each its own. I will not waste my time at the moment trying to debate (for example); Pierce's comments ( I could debate each and everyone).
Personally, both as a neighbor in that community who has seen it grow, and as a professional (architect) who has studied urban design, community development, and how zoning and certain type of developments can make/break a community; do not see any value for the Autozone to be built there.
If interested in this issue, don't hesitate to contact me.
@bg, that makes sense. I still think, though, that if the real objection is aesthetics, the developer might be prevailed upon to improve them somewhat. And you might be in a good position to make that happen.
So if AutoZone had lofts on top of it, and some green space in front of it, would that be cool?
I still think a double standard is being applied here. Look at Whole Foods on Center Ave and that entire development. That has a huge parking space and nobody is batting an eye. Look at Target. It's not not mixed use and nobody is batting an eye.
If Whole Foods wanted to setup shop on that corner, how much opposition would there be? Also note that the previously mentioned Salt of the Earth isn't mixed use either. It's just a business. So again, why the double standard?
I think it is a major issue, when low/moderate income people in that area are being slowly displaced and the things they might have used are being replaced with expensive crap they won't. I could see that community buying an oil filter. I don't see them eating at another Salt of the Earth.
To be fair Target and Whole Foods aren't right next door to the kind of housing that's the other side of Hugus Place. Target's got some apartments nearby but that's not the same thing. Whole Foods is surrounded by commercial development.
OTOH I kind of agree. AutoZone would serve lower income folks better than NaCl or the Dance Alloy would.
I still think that if, say, AutoZone was planning a smaller-sized, more urban shop that didn't require a big empty parking lot and which would fit in better with the neighborhood everybody could end up happy.
You're right. Behind Target (and separated by another four lane road) is what I'm assuming is lower income condominium housing and whatever that new housing stock is. Not huge old houses that are worth a couple of hundred thousand dollars a piece. And there used to be low income high rises where Whole Foods and Target now sit.
How many people from Hugus Place do you think shop at Target? So having that kind of development is cool when its down the street, but not when its next door to my expensive property. (FWIW, people may have had concerns about Target too, I don't know.)
I also agree that AutoZone could be spruced up to do partially what these people want, even though they're demanding more of them than they do of other businesses in the area.
I still think that if, say, AutoZone was planning a smaller-sized, more urban shop that didn’t require a big empty party lot and which would fit in better with the neighborhood everybody could end up happy.
The nature of their business requires a large(r) parking lot. People go there to get advice, run diagnostics, and the employees will even install simple parts for their customers. It's not a full service garage like some Pep Boys locations, but it also isn't as in-n-out as a regular retail store.
I don't really have an opinion as to whether that corner is appropriate for an Autozone, but they seem to be the most helpful to consumers out of the three in the area (Autozone, Advance Auto, Pep Boys).
In order of importance to me; my main concern is traffic & green space/sidewalks, second is use of property, and third is aesthetics.
Traffic: For the kind of size of bldg, parking, and access that Autozone would require to make its store viable & profitable, it would mean maximizing every inch of that lot, that would thus increase congestion of traffic affecting all the different users that cross that intersection daily (cars, bikes, pedestrian, etc).
Whole Foods happened 10+ years ago in an area that was desolate with no stores or access, so your argument is null. You can't compare that apple with this orange. Same with Target store.... that zone is decidedly commercial, while the Penn/Negley and surrounding area is mostly residential and mix-use small business.
Use: There are plenty of other businesses that could be there -I think that even a different big-box commercial would be fine, like a CVS or similar, although I think something more smaller-mix commercial use would work better. Or heck, if it was me, I would love a dinner in there.
Now, are you really saying that putting an "autozone" is going to improve the standard of living and well being of the community in that corner? Specially for people in more modest incomes? I don't buy that. --I bet you they would rather have a safer intersection where to wait with their children for the school bus, or a nice bus shelter where to wait for the PAT bus to go to work/home, or less traffic where they can feel safer crossing the street, than an asphalt parking lot and a store where you buy oil for their car.
Plus, really... "Autozone" does not care about the community, I bet you that -they want profits and they will take them from whoever.
There is already an "Autoparts" down on East Liberty Blvd -about a mile from this location. Why do we need another similar-type here?
Aesthetics: I do-care of aesthetics, and a gray box with garish signage is not my cup of tea (unless it was done in a cool-retro look that I doubt this would be the case). However, in this situation it is the least of my worries -really. If as you said, Autozone provided minimal parking, green space, and aesthetic that looked like a "small" store to the same scale of the area, I would ok with it.
However, once again & bottom-down: Personally, both as a neighbor in that community who has seen it grow, and as a professional (architect) who has studied urban design, community development, and how zoning and certain type of developments can make/break a community; do not see any value for the Autozone to be built there.
(was typing at same time as bikeygirl, so it doesn't speak to her points)
" People go there to get advice, run diagnostics, and the employees will even install simple parts for their customers."
This may make some people puke too, but it sounds like the car version of Kraynicks. And his building isn't mixed use either, and a decent amount of people drive there.
Random sampling of commercials: (Couldn't quite find one with the nice jingle.)
What people might be afraid of?
Nice anti-bike one, ironically:
(Unfailing snark removed) Watching AutoZone commercials (not that commercials are great unbiased sources of information), they fit RiceRocket's narrative. They also remind me of a car focused version of Ace Hardware
I like Kranicks, and I'm not against do-it-yourself ((I've gone to the Autoparts before to get stuff for my car)). I just firmly belief this is the wrong location for it -plan and simple. I really don't like the idea of the congestion it could create.
As I said before, a big dead parking lot would be my main objection at this location. As BG said, the whole urban environment was different when Whole foods was built. And both WF and Target have constructed very expensive multi-level parking garages to handle their automobile traffic rather than sprawl out onto large surface lots, so, apples and oranges. And unfortunately, as someone said, a parking lot is inherently necessary to this particular business.
A huge issue that Bikey did not mention is the fact that a huge gray box without windows on 80%+- of the street face means no eyes on the street. Windows in urban situations equate to a feeling of being observed, and that equates to residents feeling safe, and evildoers feeling much less confident doing their evil. This is an urban planning fact. This is way beyond simple aesthetics or just NIMBY, this is a public safety issue. A dead, unenlivened city corner is a dangerous corner that invites bad shit.
Add to that the lack of after-hours business "traffic" to an Autozone type store and again, unlike what restaurants and housing generate, you're creating a dead, uninhabited corner. All of the above applies similarly.
Pierce, while it is applicable in many situations, I think your "gentriphobia" is misplaced in this particular situation.
Short version: This isn't Monroeville, and doesn't deserve a cookie cutter copy of a Monroeville store.
I'm not sure putting their big whopping parking lot behind the store will do anyone any favors, either. Like someone said at the top, they already have a store a mile away; they're just moving the business. So look at the mirror of this "new" store: They are creating a vacuum for the "old" store, making that business district deader than it already is.
Sadly, I think this is a symptom of a deeper problem, two really. One, the revival of East Liberty after 30-maybe-40 years of decline. Two, the continued decline of Wilkinsburg which started at about the same time, roughly corresponding to the collapse of Big Steel and the fuel shortages in the 1970s and 1980s.
We can wring our hands over Penn and Negley, or we can figure out how to bring business back to Wilkinsburg.
Wilkinsburg is gradually coming back, BTW. I've been riding through there on a daily basis for years now, and I've seen a change. It's still got a long way to go, though.
I understand Lucia's concerns. I appreciate what she is trying to do.
I don't think that AutoZone will be discouraged from this location.
So, what can be done to ENCOURAGE compatibility?
Target put the parking under the store, so the face of the building was on the street, not miles of empty parking area. Can AZ be encouraged to put parking BEHIND the building? Can they increase the glass to cement ratio in the facade?
I've walked and biked past BabyLand when I lived in Bloomfield. It was almost always closed when I went by. Cement structure, dark glass, eh, not all that attractive either.
I'd suggest working with BGC and the City on facade treatments and parking design, rather than elimination of the proposed use.
If somehow AZ can be encouraged to add second and third floors (or more) for office space, that would go far toward making it less obtrusive.
Real low hanging fruit, and I'm serious this time, put a parking corral in, either right in front, or dedicate a couple of parking spaces to that purpose.
"If somehow AZ can be encouraged to add second and third floors (or more) for office space, that would go far toward making it less obtrusive."
It's enormously ironic that some of the interesting old last-century urban automobile dealership buildings, right in the general area, with showrooms on the first floor, big windows on the sidewalk face, automobile access into the building, ready made multi-level parking, are now, uh, lofts.
Or an affordable grocery store a few blocks down the street from this location
Sara -thank you for your input!
As I mentioned before, my interest so far has been to bring awareness of the situation. I know that the Team of the BGC and FDC (Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation and the Friendship Development Corporation), and well as ELDI (The East Liberty Group), are preparing a response/action to the issue.
"There’s already an Autozone not far into Wilkinsburg on Penn. What exactly is their reason for building one not 3 miles away? "
"For what I heard they will close that one after they open this one… however I would say that they should keep the other one open and not bother with this location! "
As a Wilkinsburg resident, I wholeheartedly support moving that Autozone into someone else's backyard. GET IN THE ZONE, 'SLIBERTY!
I also don't see any rational reason to oppose a new business moving into the area, especially when that business supports a lot of DIY types. If I owned a car, I would probably use Autozone just as Pierce pointed out, like the car version of Kraynick's.
Or an affordable grocery store a few blocks down the street from this location
Don't they have an aldi's on roup and baum about 3-4 blocks away or a bottom dollar (being built) on s. pacific and penn about 4 blocks away.
@Benzo - Yes, I was referring to the Aldi's as a counter-example to the above statement of "It’s enormously ironic that some of the interesting old last-century urban automobile dealership buildings, right in the general area, with showrooms on the first floor, big windows on the sidewalk face, automobile access into the building, ready made multi-level parking, are now, uh, lofts." The Aldi's used to be a Dodge? dealership, then a brief stint as a Vespa dealership, then a spot where a couple people got mugged (poor lighting/no windows/overgrown bushes where the Aldi's parking garage entrance now is) , and now an Aldi's.
A long discussion, but just to reiterate/add:
1) Whole Foods and Target may be big and ugly, but they occupy land next to the rail tracks / busway. Not space we should be using for residential. The area behind Target is actually quite nice and I'm sure the residents shop there. If you want a neighborhood that's more like what you're talking about, cross ELB.
2) Negley/Penn is better suited for residential or small business. Penn's already that to the west. And, again, there's a vacant automotive business lot just up Negley if you really need the auto parts.
3) For cyclists, the main goal for Penn/Negley should be to significantly reduce accomodation to cars. Penn from Negley to Circle should be one way either way. The fan out on Penn should be eliminated. It will create public space and provide a setback for the mixed-use building that should take the place of the babyland.
If people took their cars inside the autozone to tinker with them instead of doing it in a massive surface parking lot, then the kraynicks analogy might make sense.
A couple of thoughts:
First, municipalities have zoning districts and ordinances which describe what can/can't be built, how it needs to be built, how many parking spaces per sq. ft, etc.
Next, these ordinances may also specify "conditional uses" of the properties within the zones. A conditional use may be granted by the municipality, and the municipality has the opportunity in these cases to apply conditions to the approval.
I'm not clear from the OP, but if the applicant is requesting a variance, that means their current plan must not satisfy ordinance or they are seeking relief from a condition or conditions established by the municipality.
If this is the case, public input may be effective in helping the zoning hearing board (or whatever it is called in the City) make their determination.
"If people took their cars inside the autozone to tinker with them instead of doing it in a massive surface parking lot, then the kraynicks analogy might make sense."
I actually thought of the ATT store on Penn in the Strip, that cars drive into. That's a pretty context-sensitive application. Still, not sure it would be right for the location under discussion.
If you're going to build a new building, it makes sense to put it on a lot that's going to get the most exposure. That's Negley and Penn. Further up on Negley gets traffic, but not nearly as much as that intersection
Trying to make Penn Ave more pedestrian/cyclist friendly is a noble endeavour, but one that AutoZone isn't really going to effect one way or the other, as far as I can tell. I mean the entire stretch would have to be redone to make it useful. Short term, maybe it could be turned into something like a Liberty Ave through Bloomfield?
Looking at the map, I just had an idea. What if both Friendship and Penn were opposite one way streets from Euclid to the hospital? Then you'd have a lot more space for cyclists and pedestrians and the streets would be easier to cross in both sections. Like Penn Ave is a PITA to cross by Spaks because a) people never yield to peds and b) there's a lot of traffic. But now that the road is being worked on, it's easy (also random note, there's a bicycle sign that says cyclists may take the full lane at Penn and Winebiddle)
“If people took their cars inside the autozone to tinker with them instead of doing it in a massive surface parking lot, then the kraynicks analogy might make sense.”
What if Kraynick's added a workshop on a covered patio, so you could work on your bike outside? Would the analogy make sense then? It's not really clear to me why inside versus outside is important for this issue.
My objection is architectural. New commercial construction for suburban settings are not designed to last, and they don't. Either they're bulldozed for something newer, or they simply fall apart, after only 20 to 30 years. So, say they go through with this AZ, and it does OK for 10 maybe 15 years, but by 20 years out, it's down the tubes, and we end up with a building that's not all that old, not in all that great a shape, but specific to a single use and thus difficult to adapt to anything else. It gets a "for lease" sign on it that stays there forever.
Is that OK? Are we just setting ourselves up for the next round of slums in 2040?
Steven - it's not so much inside vs. outside as it is dead asphalt parking lot vs. a true urban building form that uses the lot effectively and activates the sidewalk.
Man, if Kraynicks had an outdoor patio for bike tinkering that would be bloody awesome.
Also, what Stu said^, 100%.
I really don't think the bike community should be telling businesses where they can and can't put down.
Whether or not you're part of the all powerful bike lobby, you're certainly allowed to have an opinion about it. Knocking down 2 buildings and replacing them with parking lots is a negative regardless of why it is being done. Take a walk along what used to be the northwest quadrant of Penn Circle if you'd like some graphic evidence.
The fact it is an auto-centric business is an additional reason not to like it, but the effect on the streetscape is the main one. If they built an 8 story mixed use building with an underground garage, with an auto parts store on the first floor, I wouldn't have a big problem with that. Ugly suburban style single story building with a huge parking lot, I'm completely against that regardless of the context. I'm not a big fan of Target or the Whole Foods strip-mall like development either.
Short version: It's only partly what they're doing that I object to, rather it's all that they're not doing. @salty @edmonds59 and I seem to be singing out of the same hymnal on that.
Case in point: Compare Centre at Aiken (good) with Liberty at Baum a block away (bad). The former is appealing, and you can fairly easily cross the street. The other looks like a tornado went through a year earlier, and no, you cannot cross the street. Well, you can, but it's scary, unpleasant, unappealing.
What are the buildings that would be knocked down currently being used for?
It didn't even occur to me that part of the reason some of you don't like it is because its an auto store. Is that really true?
Answered my own question with Google Maps.
So what we're talking about here is tearing down a disused single-use structure (the former single-story "Babyland" store) and replacing it with a single-use structure? (I note that there is apparently a pre-existing parking lot there.) And this Auto Zone would be across the street from....an existing Monro Muffler & Brake shop with six bays for vehicles?
I'm really not seeing a reason to be concerned here. There's better battles to fight to make Pittsburgh more bike-friendly.
To be honest, this is more of an urban planning issue than a "bike friendliness" issue, but it can't hurt for the bike community to chime in. As Stu said, Autozone's mindless cookie cutter suburban model is inappropriate here. IF it's going to be an auto parts store, AZ needs to be made to do better.
Indeed, I have no love for the old Babyland building. I'd like to see a little more sidewalk or at least horizontal space between sidewalk and building, though not necessarily a 40-space lot.
I leave it to the architects and urban planners to have the informed view here. I'm working more from a historical perspective. There is not a single building along Rt 22 in Monroeville that was there in 1982 in its original configuration, and some have been replaced twice.
Letter from these development corps:
"By creating a vibrant commercial street that is recognized throughout and beyond the city, we can attract quality tenants who are unwilling to locate here today."
What does that say to the tenants who live in the area now?
"On the other hand, if you are not interested, we are prepared to do what it takes to stop development that would be detrimental to the community and the future of Penn Avenue."
I’ve held off jumping into this discussion, but one very important fact is missing from the discussion within this thread – according to the CP article, the developer is requesting several (5) zoning variances for this property. For me, this changes the discussion completely. This means that the developer who bought the property knew that the city and community wanted to restrict the use of this land to certain types of buildings & to certain types of uses. If the proposal is not consistent with the zoning for this parcel the community has every right to fight it. This is why zoning exists.
Note that a developer (Gumberg) bought the property. Autozone is not the owner, just a prospective buyer/leaser. If citizens and the city decide against the auto-parts store, Gumberg is free to find another (more acceptable) use for the land.
In the meanwhile he's just pushing to see how much he can get away with (given that he seems to have the Autozone deal in hand). But if he's smart he's already started to shopping the property around to other buyers.
I've worked on projects where we've needed one, maybe 2 reasonable variances for a project to proceed. 5 is ridiculous.
That just screams "inappropriate use".
It seems like they may be able to get around some of the variances if they reuse the existing building. But, if AZ is listening, that one may be haunted - by ghost babies. #justsayin
"This is why zoning exists."
To again wonder if the content of the store is a bigger issue than the other issues presented... a Bottom Dollar opened up further down Penn Ave a few weeks? ago. It has a parking lot and I think a cookie cutter design too. Is it that different?
Is it that different?
Well, for me as a cyclist I really want that intersection to be less car-centric. I generally go through it out on Negley or down Penn and left on Negley. Both routes are somewhat harrowing due to cars. I want that intersection calmed, seriously. An auto business on the corner is not going to help that. NEITHER Penn or Negley should be perceived (by drivers) as some sort of suburban freeway. But they are.
Bottom Dollar clientele does not, by necessity, come in by car. In the city they can walk, take transit or even bike. Less impact.
It's sort of an "entrance to the neighborhood" thing. Which they have a right to want. BTW I was impressed with how the neighborhood association sounds in the news story. Very reasonable, they aren't opposed to an AutoZone, they just want it to fit the neighborhood. And I didn't know five variances are a lot. You go, neighborhood association!
they just want it to fit the neighborhood
Right. Grumberg should buy that gas station lot down on Negley, or whoever owns it should make a better offer to Autozone. It's a much better site for the intended use.
The current location could work, but not as some crappy speculator scheme.
This document exists that should be used as footprint for future development....
Some interesting old photos of the intersection:
A view of Penn and Negley Avenues safety zone, looking west 1931
5828 Penn Avenue at Negley Avenue, looking east 1931
Horvitz Motor Sales and Service used car lot and a Gulf filling station on W. L. Mellon property at the intersection of Penn Avenue and North Negley Avenue, looking north 1937
The Penn Negley Drug Co. located at the intersection of Negley Avenue and Penn Avenue looking from the northeast corner 1938
Interesction of Negley Avenue and Penn Avenue from the northwest corner looking at the northeast corner 1938
These are fantastic photos!!!!
Where did you get them from Marko?
"[T]he developer is requesting several (5) zoning variances for this property. For me, this changes the discussion completely."
Yes, it most certainly does, and I'm glad you injected this key fact into the discussion. The opening comment in this thread and the CDCs' letter to the developer left me with the impression that the Autozone would be within the existing zoning. As noted, the alleged need for five variances "changes the discussion completely."
As for the old gas station down the street, I don't disagree that it would be a good location for an Autozone, assuming the lot size is adequate. Bear in mind though, that gas stations are far from ideal candidates for redevelopment due to the potential environmental, legal, and ultimately economic responsibilities that come with taking ownership of a potentially contaminated property. Suffice it to say that a redeveloper could spend a lot of time and money on environmental engineers, environmental lawyers and remediation contractors before being able to break ground on an Autozone, or anything else.
@ bikeygirl, (time-suck warning!) From Historic Pittsburgh web site http://images.library.pitt.edu/pittsburgh/
There are cool maps and other things on the site too.
I think we've seen these photos before, on some thread a couple years back. I recall someone remarking that in that second one, there is a bicycle in the distance going outbound.
Meanwhile, in the current StreetView (taken Oct 2012), that house over the center billboard in the first photo is still visible between the word "Monro" and the traffic light.
I guess I was wrong about the abandoned Dodge dealership being safer now that it has been converted into an Aldi's. Very sad/frightening news: http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2014/07/11/suspect-sought-in-friendship-sexual-assault/
I am surprised there is even an argument here. Just head down Penn Ave to Wilkinsburg where there is parking lot after parking lot serving car scale establishments. The street sucks. Autozone is not a good fit for the neighborhood.
BGC is great if you're into gentrifying a neighborhood and demonizing the residents who already live there. I've seen horrible wastes of resources they've had their hands in and their CEO or whatever Rick Swartz? has a six figure salary.
They're already spinning what happened. The developer DID meet with them. The BGC or Friendshipwhatever then issued a letter threatening them. If the shoe were on the other foot, they'd be crying murder. One stupid corporation fighting a developer. Also stupid to say they then "got a lawyer." You don't buy property for development WITHOUT a lawyer. They already had a lawyer.
I'm glad for whichever elected official already weighted in and was essentially like "You can't bully developers into doing what you want. Property owners have rights too."
Who's bullying who? They are trying to convert the space into something it's not currently zoned to be. The Bottom Dollar (having not seen it in person) was built on a property that already had a parking lot, and already had a store.
@rsprake: Have you actually seen the site in question? There is currently a parking lot either immediately adjacent to, or on the former Babyland premises (I'm not sure where the lines are divided, but there was a sign indicating that the lot was to be used by Babyland patrons,) and a Midas Muffler & Brake shop with six bays and a large parking lot right across the street. Adjacent to the Midas is the restaurant NACL, which also has a parking lot. Frankly, an auto parts store fits the aesthetic of that block quite nicely.
If you'd like to buy the property and do something else with it, more power to you.
I am familiar with it. It's ugly. Why not demand something better?
"Better" is in the eye of the beholder. For the people who will work in the store, "better" will involve something that employs them. For the people who bought the property, "better" will involve something that allows them to recoup their initial investment.
If this is so important to you, why don't you offer to purchase it?
1) The auto parts store will require five (5) variances. The zoning ordinances didn't materialize just before the developer bought the property. This is another way to say that this development does not fit the property, and there's a bunch of concrete reasons.
He's nabbed a customer and is simply pushing to get the rules bent so that he gets his sale. This seems like the crux of it: trashing the character of the area without giving anything in return. A lot of people live around there. What about them?
2) The muffler place is not across the street, it's a bit further up the hill. Across the street is a former gas station (I think) that's been under development for like a really long time (with little to show for it). I wonder what will end up there. If you know, tell us about it. I would bet an office building and/or a condo.
3) If a commercial building gets built (which is probably the most sensible use for the lot, given developments further up the hill), there will be plenty of jobs and quite possibly better ones. And revenues will be correspondingly higher. What's not to like?
4) And, there's still that empty gas station lot further up Negley. An auto parts store would fit right in. (Or maybe that owner is being smart and holding out for a better deal than you'd get for some auto store.)
If you’d like to buy the property and do something else with it, more power to you.
If this is so important to you, why don’t you offer to purchase it?
So because I don't have the wherewithal to do something with the property I can't have an opinion about what should be done with it?
@Pierce "I’ve seen horrible wastes of resources they’ve had their hands in and their CEO or whatever Rick Swartz? has a six figure salary."
This is a lie. If you bothered to look at their 990, you'd see that he makes $53,000 a year. Do some research before you smear people.
@rsprake: you certainly have the right to any opinion you feel like holding and the right to express that opinion freely.
What you do not have is a right to automatic respect for any opinion you hold, especially when that opinion involves you making demands about what someone else should do with their own property.
1. What are the variances requested? Are they of any significance? There are lots of zoning regs. Not all of them are productive, as residents who park their cars on their own property in Sq Hill recently learned.
2. Looked close enough to me.
3. An "if" is not a good hook on which to hang your argument. I can do that, too: if this business is forced out and no one else does anything with the property, it's a loss for everyone. Is someone else waiting in the wings here, or are you just hoping?
4. If the closed gas station (sure are a lot of empty buildings around there, eh?) is such a good spot, why do you think the developers did not go for that instead?
Not all of them are productive, as residents who park their cars on their own property in Sq Hill recently learned.
This seems like a poor example of your point, since it involves residents complaining that some of their neighbors are parking on their front lawns on makeshift gravel "parking pads", sometimes even parking commercial vehicles there. This is an eyesore, is prohibited, and should be.
Across the street is a former gas station (I think) that’s been under development for like a really long time (with little to show for it). I wonder what will end up there. If you know, tell us about it. I would bet an office building and/or a condo.
BGC has been wondering that as well
(PDF, see page 4). The Monro next door owns it and leases it to construction and other companies to store materials and debris; BGC and other neighbourhood groups have taken them to BBI and the zoning board as well.
Per this month's BGC Bulletin
, see page 3 bottom left), there are no plans to develop the lot; Swartz suggests Monro wants to maintain the view of the garage from Negley, and in the previous article the garage's local manager is quoted as saying they might turn it into a parking lot.
^buffalo beat me to it!
The empty gas station lot across the street is owned by Monro. My understanding is that they don't want anything to be developed there as it would block visibility of their shop. There was a zoning hearing about the construction vehicles they've been allowing to park there in June, no decision yet. See page 3 of the July issue of The Bulletin: Penn-Negley Site Goes Before Zoning
Another great neighborhood enhancing idea right there.
@ Steven: you'll forgive me if I don't subscribe to the belief that zoning laws exist so that nebby people can play 'gotcha' with their neighbors when they feel annoyed by them.
I think watching your property's value drop because your new neighbor is a clueless clod might have something to do with it too.
If you're looking only at the BGC's 990, then yes Will, he makes 50k. There are other organizations he's works/ed for/with/runs though as a consultant, which doesn't show up on 990. What's the amount of assets the BGC controls now? Not everything is so crystal clear as to show up on a simple tax form
I'd still argue this is an issue of class and the rest is eh, a distraction. If baby land was hopping and selling crap, the parking situation would be the same no? If they were going to put a Porsche or Smart Car dealership in there, would people be complaining? Nothing that's being done with this property hasn't already been done somewhere else on Penn.
To his credit, he did offer kind words in regards to the Bottom Dollar, which apparently other residents did complain about:
Funny quotation from Rick Swartz:
"We all know that, for many private investors, the bottom line usually outweighs the good that is going to come to the community from their actions. That’s the nature of capitalism, and we at the BGC are OK with it."
Okay with it huh?
Here is the rest of the quote.
We think a land bank will help to better fuse the investor’s bottom line to the community good that comes from recycling non-tax-producing properties in creative, exciting ways. If it helps to create some economic or social equity in your community in the end, that’s OK, too. We’re not going to attach too many wagons to one team of horses.
I'm reading that as "Hey, if you want to develop luxury lofts or a hotel in a depressed area, go for it! If you want to actually help the community, eh, that's good, but not necessarily what we're worried about." Which again, feeds into my classist notion. The BGC only cares about the AutoZone because it isn't inline with the higher income people the BGC wants to move into the area and prop up their own and others real estate ventures. An AutoZone isn't going to bring more business to Salt of the Earth or the Glass Lofts or Verde or the other crap over there.
Well, their jingle says "get in the zone... auto zoooooone". they don't specify the method for getting in.
Related but not related. Not wanting another big box store in your area is not a unique to the "Salt of the Earth, Glass Lofts or Verde crowd."
"Residents turn out to protest Walmart's plans to build McCandless superstore"
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/north/2014/07/22/Resident-protest-proposed-Walmart-in-McCandless/stories/201407220139#ixzz38FPiKOua
There is an appeal process, to the Court of Common Pleas, so it is not final yet.
Also, I liked this quote:
"A lot of folks will try to use the zoning code to purposefully frustrate development. We’re open to a lot of ideas — we’re not zoning Jihadists."
'The board's decision isn't final, though, and Swartz predicts the likelihood Gumberg will appeal to Common Pleas court is "about 100 percent."'
Hey, do we need a version of Godwin's Law for "Jihadists" now?
Wow, lots of more comments since I last checked this.
Oh Pierce -why so negative and jumpy to conclusions? I'm srly amused at your comments about the BGC:
"..Hey, if you want to develop luxury lofts or a hotel in a depressed area, go for it! ..."
"...The BGC only cares about the AutoZone because it isn’t inline with the higher income people the BGC wants to move into the area and prop up their own and others real estate ventures..."
A responsible Community group will try and nurture businesses that help the overall mix & quality of the community, and for that they need a mix of use, as well as a mix of clientele with different backgrounds & incomes. You say that they only help "classist agenda", but that's not quite true. An African-American owned beauty salon opened on Penn (one block over between NACL and Verde). Also, the little bodega across Verde, owned by an Asian Family that is super-awesome, is being able to finally renovate their facade and business with some guidance from the BGC. There is also the new low-fi clothes / venue/ furniture place that opened earlier in the summer; and the small gift & curious store close to the beer distributor, which are in a way a different demographic.
Personally, I think it is a triumph that the BGC was able to work w/Bottom Dollar to get the much-needed groceries to the community in a way that complimented the mix-needs of the area, and are damned-glad that, at least for now, that the Autozone, which was bad-news for everyone in that community regardless of income or background, is put on-hold for now.
I will not waste more of my breath on this, but HOORAY for the small victory!
Just to reiterate the themes of earlier commentary:
Penn/Negley, as currently set up is not pedestrian friendly: it's really part of a residential and small business neighborhood. The insertion of yet another automotive business would have further degraded the environment. (How would *you* feel having to walk through there to East Liberty?)
That stretch of Negley, as well as Penn, is out of character with extensions of those streets adjacent to that intersection, all of which is smaller scale. The right thing to do is to restore the streetscape and make it human scale. Actually, enhance it: Penn to Est Lib should have bike lane(s), as should the stretch of Negley between Penn and ELB. Both are hellish during rush hour (and in both cases traffic then needs to merge into one lane each direction; what's the point of the speedways?)
What are they doing with the building at negley and whatever. That little tiny side street near the charter school across from the sunoco. Was just a vacant lot with an old boarded up service station. They now tore up the lot part. Anyone know?
@Ahlir, How is/was the interection of Penn Ave./Negley Ave. car-centric? Can someone explain this?