Pittsburgh delivers on sweeping views: hill views, river views, bridge views. Traveling toward Bloomfield across its eponymous bridge, for instance, reveals houses perched carefully on the lip of Skunk Hollow, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in neat rows and a convergence of the bridge, Main Street and Liberty Avenue: the Bloomfield Gateway.
Now, a view that hasn’t changed much over the last few decades could look dramatically different.
Two large parcels near the Bloomfield Bridge are listed for sale: the former Bloomfield Bridge Tavern and the Bloomfield ShurSave, and other buildings are changing hands, said Christina Howell, executive director of the Bloomfield Development Corporation (BDC).
“There’s a lot happening at that intersection and we just want to make sure that we’re supporting good design and good development there that’s community-responsive.”
This winter, in advance of any proposals from developers, BDC asked community residents to describe what they’d most like to see at the gateway. The process was led by Lawrenceville-based Studio for Spatial Practice with financial support from ACTION-Housing. Final recommendations were displayed Wednesday night.
Models built by Bloomfielders lined a room at the West Penn Hospital School of Nursing. Tiny plastic flowers and fronds represented green space, blocks big and small showed different configurations of housing, a grocery store and office space. Studio for Spatial Practice created three scenarios that the community can use to start discussions with potential developers: one with office space, and all with a grocery and varying amounts of mixed-income and senior housing.
The latter emerged as one of the neighborhood’s priorities during the visioning process. Resident Trisanne DelGrosso said as neighbors age out of their homes they’ll need somewhere to go.
“I don’t want people coming from all over the world to get in these [senior] apartments,” she said. “I want the residents of Bloomfield first, then you can count other people.”
While the community priorities and design guidelines are not binding, they will provide BDC and neighbors with the tools to advocate for themselves, said Bruce Chan of Studio for Spatial Practice.
“I’m really hopeful that whoever the developer is that they would want to collaborate with the community,” he said.
The community design process has been a kind of re-set, said Howell. In January 2018 Indianapolis-based developer Milhaus proposed a mixed-use project with 237 apartments for the ShurSave site. Their plan sparked dissent from residents who worried about housing affordability in the neighborhood as well as the fate of its full-service supermarket. Before the end of 2018, Milhaus walked away from the site and it went back up for sale.
“It was unfortunate that that fell apart,” said Howell. Now “we are trying to get ahead of whatever happens next.”
While there have been reports of an interested buyer for the ShurSave, it remains listed for $6.75 million by Hanna Commercial Real Estate. A PDF notes that the 1.7-acre site is “one of the largest parcels of developable land in the area.” A similar brief describes the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern as being located at the gateway to the East End and the Central Business District. Hanna agent Anthony Cost was not immediately available for comment on the status of either parcel.