A total of $1.6 million will give a boost to two different Pittsburgh neighborhood development projects that supporters say will provide substantial boosts to the micro economies. The Office of Community Services has awarded $789,000 to the Hill House Economic Development Corporation to advance construction of the Hill District’s Shop N’ Save on Centre Avenue. The remainder of the funds will go to transforming East Liberty’s former YMCA building into a five-story hotel equipped with a fitness center, coffee shop and retail stores.
The $789,000 OCS grant adds to a $1 million contribution from the Pittsburgh Penguins and $275,800 in deferred land acquisition financing from the Urban Redevelopment Authority for the $11.5 million grocery store and retail space project.
Cheryl Hall-Russell, President and CEO of the Hill House Association called the Hill District a “food desert.”
“Living in a food desert translates into childhood obesity because a child living in this neighborhood has better access to chips and soda than to apples and fresh fruit juice,” Russell said.
She said areas without convenient access to grocery stores result in health complications for the community.
“It means higher rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease,” Russell said. “Ultimately, it could mean shorter life spans.”
Russell added the project aligns with Michelle Obama’s obesity prevention and advocacy projects.
“When you’re looking at 10 year-olds who are over 100 pounds and elderly having chronic diseases, it’s not just because they don’t have access to fresh food, but you better believe it is really a part of the problem here,” Russell said.
Russell said the Shop N’ Save should be open by next year, and the store and retail shops should create an additional 100 jobs in the Hill District.