Homestead got another store Thursday, but it’s not number 74 at The Waterfront.
Bottom Dollar Food opened a new store on East 7th St. on the other side of the tracks. Borough officials are calling it an effort to revitalize the community.
When the U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works closed in 1986, the borough was in financial distress. The approximately 256 acres of abandoned steel mills sat unused until 1999 when developers first broke ground on The Waterfront, an outdoor shopping center housing more than 70 stores and restaurants.
Completed in 2002, the shopping center brought in visitors, driving up the housing market, but there was a problem. The transformation of the site was meant to cater to affluent neighborhoods like Squirrel Hill and Shadyside. Communities with older populations like Homestead and West Homestead find The Waterfront inaccessible by foot.
While the stores are difficult to get to for most Homestead residents, Mayor Betty Esper said The Waterfront has been a plus for the local community.
“You’ve got to pass Main Street to get to The Waterfront,” Esper said. “We’re not far removed from it. It’s not a mall that’s removed from Main Street. We are part of The Waterfront. You’ve got to go through Main Street to get there.”
Now, stores like Bottom Dollar Food are bringing business across the train tracks into the heart of Homestead.
Borough Manager Ian McMeans said the grocery chain is trying to take the feel of The Waterfront and bring it back to Homestead’s commercial quarter.
“In Bottom Dollar’s site plan, they’re actually using the same kind of trees, the same color on their light poles as what’s down in The Waterfront to help build that continuous look between The Waterfront and the business district of the Steel Valley communities,” he said.
The store opened at 8 a.m. and offered the first 200 customers a reusable tote bag filled with free groceries. As part of the grand opening, Bottom Dollar Food will make a $1,600 donation to the Rainbow Kitchen in Homestead, a local food pantry.
The Homestead site adds 40 new jobs to the local economy and is the North Carolina-based company’s 19th location in the Pittsburgh region.
Esper said the new store is a sign of things to come.
“I think it’s a little bridge right now,” she said. “Every stepping stone leads to a bigger, long trail and there are a lot of stepping stones developing in our town.”