By Jen Cardone | The Duquesne Duke
After a much-anticipated wait, Hill District officials announced that a Shop N’ Save grocery store will open on Oct. 17 in the Centre Heldman Plaza.
The Hill District has been without a grocery store for almost 30 years. After many years of starting and stopping the project, the residents are finally obtaining a Shop ‘N Save they have waited so long to receive.
The Hill House Economic Development Corporation has been working on a new shopping plaza that will lease space for six retailers—Shop ‘N Save, Crazy Mocha, Nationwide Insurance, Subway, Cricket Communications and Dollar Bank, according to Hill House CEO and president Cheryl Hall-Russell.
Hall-Russell said the goal of the project is three-fold: to “bring a desperately needed supermarket and ancillary retail shops to Hill District residents,” to “provide full time and part time permanent employment to low income residents” and to “have this high profile development act as a catalyst for future commercial growth.”
The cost of the shopping plaza totaled $12.5 million. The project was funded by city, county, state, federal, corporate, philanthropic and tax credit dollars. The Urban Redevelopment Authority provided funds as well.
Hall-Russell said the Shop ‘N Save will be a full service grocery store with everything but a pharmacy. Duquesne’s pharmacy is across the parking lot at 1860 Centre Ave. The Dollar Bank will be located within the grocery store as well.
The store will employ more than 100 people, giving the community more employment opportunities for the residents. Hall-Russell also said that 65 percent of those hired so far are from the 15219 zip code. Of these newly employed Downtown residents, 95 percent of the them are minorities. To be hired for the positions, they went through a program called the Hill House First Source Center, which included an interview.
Hall-Russell called the project a “big commitment to the economic rebirth of the neighborhood.” She also said the project is “much more than a set of retail shops.”
“[This project], along with projects like the new YMCA, continues to revamp the commercial district of the Hill District,” Hall-Russell said in an email. “The Hill District really is a great place to work, live and play and now it is also a great place to shop!”
Hall-Russell also said that projects to this extent lead to even more community development, and it gives them a better sense of well-being about themselves and the community at large.
“It was a real community effort to not only complete the store but ensure our community had a shot at being employed by the store,” Hall-Russell said. “It is a great success story.”
Jeff Ross, who owns Shop n’ Save stores in McKeesport, Connellsville and Mt. Pleasant, will own the store in the Hill District.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place for media and stakeholders on the morning of Oct. 17. There will be a community celebration on Oct. 19 entitled the “Centre of Celebration.”
Hill House Chief Operating Officer Jeff Anderson said the purpose of the community celebration is “a day to bring everyone together to enjoy the fun of sharing in the celebratory opening of the Shop ‘N Save.”
He stressed that in the chaos of press conferences and speeches, “we lose sight that it is about the community and the residents who live here—we felt it is necessary to have a community celebration about them.”
The event will feature a series of musical performances, art, dancing, food and games.
Anderson said he sees the opening as an opportunity for economic drive for additional development in the Hill District. He believes this will have a huge impact on the community.
“You have folks who reside here, make a living here, and can shop and spend here—it’s putting resources back into a community where they live,” Anderson said. “If the Hill House did not take on this project it may not have happened.”