It was 2019 when ECHO Realty, Giant Eagle’s real estate company, publicly announced their plan to tear down the Shady Hill Shopping Center which contains the East Liberty Giant Eagle on Shakespeare Street. The East Liberty complex will be the site of a new grocery store, apartments, a bank of other stores along Shady Avenue and a parking garage.

Phil Bishop, ECHO’s vice president, had estimated that the zoning change needed for the mixed-use project would take a few months, demolition could start in 2020 and the project would be done by 2022.

Neighborhood opposition that forced revisions to the plan and the pandemic derailed that timeline.

But now, on Saturday, July 23, the East Liberty Giant Eagle is closing at 6 p.m. so that the shopping center — which used to include a Dollar Bank, state liquor store and Family Dollar — can be torn down.

Construction is slated to begin in the fall on a new 36,000-square-foot store that will open onto Penn Avenue with another entrance and parking behind it.

ECHO also plans to build 38,200 square feet of retail space to rent to small merchants along Shady Avenue. That line of stores will have a break between them at the intersection of Ellsworth Avenue where the entrance and exit to the three-story garage with more than 400 parking spaces will be located.

Aerial view of the apartment building with ground floor retail shops at the proposed development. Cars will enter and exit from the garage through a tunnel between the stores and under the apartments at the intersection of Shady and Ellsworth avenues. Rendering courtesy of Strada Architects.

The project also includes a 230-unit apartment building five stories high above the ground floor retail space along Shady Avenue. ECHO has committed to making 15% of the units affordable.

Strada Architects is working with ECHO on the development.

While the grocery store is closed, customers who used the pharmacy will be served at a new temporary location at The Village of Eastside located across Penn Avenue.

Giant Eagle is also bringing its mobile market — a truck trailer filled with groceries — to the Homewood YWCA at 6907 Frankstown Ave. on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. On Thursdays, the grocer’s retail trailer will be in Larimer at the Kingsley Association, located at 6435 Frankstown Ave., from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. and in Homewood at The Bethany Center, located at 7745 Tioga St., from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Even though ECHO Realty is demolishing the old shopping center, the company has not finished obtaining city approvals. The company’s site plan still needs the approval of the planning commission, which recommended the zoning change for the property in October 2019. That change was passed by the city council.

Ann Belser is the owner of Print, a newspaper covering Pittsburgh's East End communities. After receiving a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, she moved to Squirrel Hill and was a staff writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 20 years where she covered local communities, county government, courts and business.