Allegheny County is investing $500,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to facilitate the redevelopment of the former Cuda building in Braddock. The funding will go toward interior and exterior improvements to stabilize the building and prepare it for occupancy.
"What's happening is we're taking a derelict structure that's been empty now for about a quarter of a century and we're introducing an entire food pavilion, if you will, in a town that doesn't have a restaurant," said Braddock Mayor John Fetterman.
The food pavilion will include a restaurant that will include a hot dog and barbecue shop as well as a fancier destination restaurant that will allow for higher end cuisine. Local chef and restaurateur Kevin Sousa will be moving to Braddock and opening the restaurant portion of the new development.
"Three years ago people told me I was crazy for opening a fine dining restaurant in Garfield. I think that would be a pretty great model, and we've succeeded pretty substantially," said Sousa. "I own a hotdog shop in East Liberty in what was once considered a bad neighborhood."
He said neighborhoods like those and Braddock aren't given a fair shake, and added that while some see opening a restaurant in the borough as a risk, he's confident it can be successful. Braddock hasn't had a restaurant since 2010, and even that was the eatery of the hospital, which was closed.
"Nobody has rose-colored glasses on, but we have a track record behind us. We have the support of the chief executive's office and county economic development, and Braddock will have a restaurant, and that's a great thing," said Mayor Fetterman.
The new facility may also house Springboard Kitchens, which does three things.
"We rescue fresh food. We do about 10,000 pounds of fresh produce that would otherwise be thrown away because it has a short shelf life. We use that food to make meals for food-insecure people such as Meals on Wheels. Right now we're doing about 2,000 meals a day, and we use that food and those meals to train people with barriers to employment for jobs in the food service industry," said Jennifer Flanagan, with Springboard.
The new restaurant will also feature a brewery, where three recent CMU grads, calling themselves The Brew Gentlemen, will make craft beer.
The renovation of the old Cuda building, which was once an Italian market, will be in three phases. The first phase is already done and included installation of a white PVC roof and some other replacements. The second phase will stabilize the interior and rehabilitate the façade. The third phase will cover build-out for tenants. Private funding will supplement the county funding on this project. There's no set timeline, but Sousa said the hope is that the restaurant can open in about a year.