Starting next month, the Port Authority of Allegheny County will be doing major construction on the Red Line tracks along Broadway Avenue in Beechview. Although the project has been modified in an effort to reduce the impact on businesses and residents along the route, it will mean significant disruptions, especially to parking.
Rico Lunardi, owner of Slice on Broadway and treasurer of the Beechview Merchants Association says the changes to the plan will help, but he and other businesses are still not sure how to best plan for the project’s impact. For example, since Slice is sort of in the middle of the block on Broadway Avenue, Lunardi is not sure whether a delivery driver loading up his car for deliveries will be stopping traffic, or there will be room for cars to maneuver around.
He estimates 50 percent of his business is delivery, and 50 percent is pickup. He’s anticipating delivery will pick up, and is planning more delivery specials and expects to hire more drivers. He’ll also increase advertising and social media efforts, Lunardi says.
“I wouldn’t say we’re winging it; we’ve known this was coming for a long time. But until it starts, we won’t know exactly how we’re going to adapt.”
At a chaotic meeting at St. Catherine of Siena church last week, business owners and residents were hoping to hear more details about the pending construction and parking restrictions. Instead of a presentation on stage, there were stations set up at tables around the room, like one might find at a job fair, with Port Authority staff on hand to answer questions.
But the day before the meeting, the Port Authority announced changes to the plans. The $8.4 million project now will be completed in two phases, in an attempt to reduce the impact on the business district to three months, by working first on the end sections of the project, then moving to the middle portion.
The entire project is scheduled to be completed in six months. And Michael Facchiano Contracting, the contractor on the project, has incentive to complete the work early.
“We heard loud and clear from the community and its elected leaders about the desire to address these key concerns in our work plan,” Port Authority CEO Ellen McLean said in a statement. “This change ensures there will be more on-street parking options for residents and less impact on businesses.”
Renee DiDiano, manager at the Brew on Broadway coffee shop near the Fallowfield T station says there will still be inconvenience for businesses, especially those who rely on foot traffic. She says they’re planning to keep up their full slate of events to draw people to the neighborhood, including monthly Jazz Jam sessions, Uncommon Game Nights and trivia nights. The calendar of upcoming events is on Brew’s Facebook page.
For newer businesses like Feeney’s Weenies which opened last fall, and former Pittsburgh Public Market vendor GetMoMuffins, which just opened in Beechview on Monday, keeping momentum going while they’re still building the customer base will be the focus.
“I plan on keeping the same hours and also offering delivery, as it might be easier for me to get to customers than the customers trying to find parking and get to me,” says Robin Stanton, owner of GetMoMuffins.
The city is hosting a meeting at Brew on Broadway on Feb. 29 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. to help businesses in the neighborhood better prepare for the construction. “How Your Business Can Survive and Thrive” will feature a presentation from Mayor Bill Peduto’s staff, and advice about joint advertising ideas and parking strategies.
“We’re thrilled it’s only going to be for a short time, but we know this is a disruption,” says Beechview business district manager Dave Brewton. He will be at the Feb. 29 meeting and encourages businesses to bring their questions.
For his part, Lunardi says it’s key for businesses in Beechview to stick together as much as possible during the closure, and offered a plea to patrons: Remember the businesses are there and they’re open throughout the construction. “We’re not going away,” he says. “Don’t forget about us.”
For more information about the Red Line closure and the alternate transportation options for commuters, visit the Red Line section of the Port Authority website.