Plans for Garden Theater block move ahead slowly but surely


Though the Urban Redevelopment Authority rescinded its agreement with Jim Aiello Jr. to develop part of the Garden Theater block last Thursday, the future of the rundown block on West North Avenue looks far from dim.

Northside Leadership Conference Executive Director Mark Fatla, a partner in the marketing process, said three developers have already made known their intent to submit development bids.

The development plan, still in its early stages, calls for a mix of retail and residential space.

According to sources, because Aiello could not secure an anchor tenant, rumored to be a bank, he had to withdraw his proposal to develop four properties facing Federal Street and North Avenue.

The URA added these buildings to its separate agreement with Northside Tomorrow, a joint venture between the Northside Leadership Conference and the Central Northside Neighborhood Council.

“There are certain advantages to marketing the block as an integrated whole,” said Fatla, although he admitted it was difficult to lose Aiello Development after working with the company for a year.

Aiello Development could not be reached for comment.

On the plus side, Fatla said the redevelopment will now be easier to coordinate because many of the buildings share exterior walls. Additionally, he believes the project will be more attractive to a developer as a whole, since the more profitable buildings to renovate will balance out the less profitable units.

“That way we’re not stuck with one ugly duckling [building that no one wants to develop],” Fatla said.

Beside those, he expects Northside Tomorrow will receive plenty of other proposals once they send out new requests for proposals in the next 60 days.

The entire redevelopment could cost more than the $12 million originally thought. However, the Conference’s subsidiary, the Northside Community Development Fund, already has a $4 million tax credit to be used toward development costs.

The URA board separately approved $63,000 for façade improvement on the old Liberty Tax building on the corner of East Street and East Ohio Street.

Additionally, they approved a $25,000 grant for the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation to study the possibility of reconnecting the East Ohio Street grid through Allegheny Center.

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