This story was originally published by PublicSource, a news partner of NEXTpittsburgh. PublicSource is a nonprofit media organization delivering local journalism at publicsource.org. You can sign up for their newsletters at publicsource.org/newsletters.

By Rich Lord

Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority will make a $1.37 million loan to the impending operators of a new Hill District grocery store in another step toward restoring a crucial amenity that has been missing from the central neighborhood for three years.

The URA board approved the loan, which will make up roughly 20% of the estimated $6.78 million cost of developing a new Salem’s Market and Grill location. The minority-owned business plans to add the former Shop ‘n Save space in the Centre-Heldman Plaza to its current Strip District base. In the Hill, Salem’s expects to employ 62 people full-time, plus some part-time workers. Salem’s promised to hire from the neighborhood and use local and minority vendors.

The low-interest loan from the URA’s Pittsburgh Business Fund supplements Key Bank financing.

Abdullah Salem, one of the owners, said the business plans to bring “an entire food Mecca or a food Disneyland to the area.” He said plans for the combination grocery and restaurant include hot chicken, grilled food, farm-to-table fresh meat, fresh seafood, a full bakery, ample international ingredients but mostly conventional groceries.

“The Hill District is a beloved community, and they deserve the absolute best from a grocer,” said Salem. “It’s really not lost on us how big of an opportunity this is for us.”

The Shop ‘n Save that had occupied the space closed in 2019. Salem’s was selected following a community meeting, a polling process and then URA financial vetting.

“We know the duty that has been given to us by the residents, which is to solve a food desert,” said Salem. “Mediocrity is not an option. For us, excellence is the only option.”