Rendering of Comfort Inn, East Deutschtown, courtesy of John Graf.

It’s one of the most prominent corners in Pittsburgh, where Interstate 279 meets Route 28, Route 65 and East Ohio Street. And for a very long time, it’s been marked by abandonment and neglect.

Now, that corner is coming to life.

First, opening in early May, is a new hotel — a 96-room Comfort Inn, operated by the Priory Hospitality Group, who developed the historic, boutique Priory Hotel a few blocks away in Deutschtown.

“East Deutschtown is kind of like the forgotten stepchild — when 279 went through, it cut that part of Deutschtown off of the main part, which is west of the highway,” says John Graf, president and CEO of Priory Hospitality Group. “So it’s kind of been shuffling for awhile. We see this as a good catalyst for residential development and creating some liveliness in the area.”

The hotel on East Ohio Street could create some foot traffic for the growing number of nearby merchants and restaurants.

“Penn Brewery is very close,” says Graf. “There’s a couple of Wigle (Whiskey) outlets, Threadbare Cider and the Barrelhouse. Both of which would be nice attractions for our guests. So yeah, we’d see a bump up in terms of liveliness for businesses in Deutstchtown, East Deutshctown and Spring Garden.”

With rooms ranging from $150 to $190 per night, the hotel will employ 80 people. “Our commitment was to provide jobs within the neighborhood, so, to the extent that we can hire local, we certainly want to do that,” notes Graf.

View of the sixth-floor terrace at the Comfort Inn on the North Side. Photo by John Graf.

The next step is repurposing the historic Workingman’s Savings Bank building next to the hotel. It was built in 1902 in the Beaux Arts style. Later, it became known as the ARC House, part of a network of rehabilitation centers, but that was vacated in 2006.

“That’s kind of stage two of this,” says Graf. “We’re looking to have that be an event and performance space, on the main floor and lower level. On the third floor, we would be putting in a small bar and restaurant.”

It’s a change in plans for the building. “Awhile back, we conceived of it as a brewpub operation, partnering with a local brewery,” notes Graf. “We’ve kind of cooled on that idea. That (brewpub) space has gotten super-super crowded; I’m not sure it’s a benefit to us or a brewery. There’s one on every street corner.”

Rending of the Comfort Inn, with the Workingman’s Savings Bank building on the left.
Rending of the Comfort Inn, with the Workingman’s Savings Bank building on the left.

This part is going to take some time yet to get started. As with the hotel, October Development is partnering on the project.

“We still have to get the financing in place,” says Graf. “My hope would be to get the financing in place in mid-summer, say July.”

Graf sees East Deutschtown as linking together a newly-vibrant zone on the North Side. “I think we’re going to end up with a pretty cool axis from the eastern end of the northern shore, with Wigle Whiskey, follow that past our new hotel and reconfigured ARC House and on to Nova Place, which is hopping with new tech businesses,” says Graf. “I think we’re going to see a very lively corridor there.”

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.