Perry Hilltop once again has a meeting place.

After nearly three years of renovations, Oakglade Realty has transformed the former Lucas Market at the corner of Burgess and Wilson into a community coworking space.

“This is all about investing in the community,” says Pete Rooke, partner at Oakglade, a real estate development firm that serves the North Side. “Our business is trying to stabilize and bring momentum back to a community that has been mischaracterized for too long.”

Memberships cost $25 a month and provide access during regular business hours. The location will also be used to host community meetings, yoga classes, educational seminars and more, while Oakglade will use the back warehouse space for storage.

Oakglade bought the former market from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in 2014. The building, constructed around the turn of the century, sat vacant for 20 years and had fallen into such disrepair that the floors had collapsed.

Rooke said they originally considered reopening the space as a market but ultimately decided the neighborhood didn’t need another convenience store as much as a viable meeting space. Inside, long wooden tables and couches rest aside exposed brick walls and original wooden beams.

Joanna Deming of the Perry Hilltop Citizens Council and Zema Ahmed of the Fineview Citizens Council.

“Anytime someone with a small business or who works from home in Perry Hilltop set up a meeting they’d have to go to another neighborhood,” says Rooke. “We wanted to plant our flag right here in Perry Hilltop.”

The space sits across the street from the Corner of Hope where last month nine murals of Negro League baseball players were re-dedicated at an event sponsored by the Perry Hilltop Citizens Council, one of the organizations that will be working out of the new space. (The murals were restored by students from The Pittsburgh Project under the guidance of artist Sandy Kessler Kaminski.)

Later this summer Perry Hilltop and nearby Fineview will install a new neighborhood welcome sign designed by the artist Linda Wallen, who has installed a number of mosaics in nearby Spring Hill. It’s another sign of collaboration between the two neighborhoods since the Perry Hilltop Citizens Council partnered with the Fineview Citizens Council.

“Our communities are working together strategically, which hasn’t happened to a great extent in the North Side outside of the Leadership Conference,” says Program Manager Joanna Deming. “It’s an organic partnership.”

The two organizations are in the midst of a nine-month survey that will guide a comprehensive community plan to drive development in the neighboring communities while making sure it benefits every resident.

“The goal of the community planning process is that whenever large developments or opportunities come our way, we’ll know what the community wants and we can make sure it’s a win for everybody,” says Zeba Ahmed of the Fineview Citizens Council.

Brian Conway

Brian Conway is a writer and photographer whose articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and local publications. In his free time, he operates Tripsburgh. Brian lives in the South Side.