Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Businesses Survive Projects along Penn Ave. Work Has Stretched Longer Than Planned

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Businesses Survive Projects along Penn Ave. Work Has Stretched Longer Than Planned

Article excerpt

Nearly every business owner in the four-block Penn Avenue construction zone through Bloomfield and Garfield has taken it on the chin since August 2013, as work stretched on longer than planned.

Westbound drivers snake alongside jersey barriers, focused on getting through it. But with the road expected to be completed at year's end, three new business owners have posted "opening soon" signs on a tea bar, a dance studio and a music gallery and event space. Work on the sidewalks, signals and trees will be delayed until next year.

"These people have a vision for what it will be like" when the work is done, said Aggie Brose, deputy director of the Bloomfield Garfield Corp., an advocacy and development nonprofit.

In the meantime, the agency has set up a low-interest loan fund to help small businesses and is planning a Small Business Saturday event two days after Thanksgiving. Its commercial district manager, Amber Epps, said shoppers are being encouraged to devote part of Nov. 29 to shopping in that area.

She also has secured a Biz Buzz grant of $7,000 from the Urban Redevelopment Authority to create incentives for people to shop in the work zone. It's a 10-week campaign, called Tour de Penn, that starts Dec. 6. Tour de Penn, a play on "detour," will include a map and a passport that people can pick up at any business in the construction zone. The passports will be stamped once for a visit and twice for a purchase. A gift card will be awarded each week to the winner of a drawing.

In another show of support, Mayor Bill Peduto and an entourage from Grant Street showed up one day recently for lunch at Pho Minh, filling the Vietnamese restaurant at 4917 Penn Ave. The restaurant has had a particularly hard time of it.

Henry Pyatt, Mr. Peduto's small business and redevelopment manager, suggested this flash mob to help Pho Minh and to prove that while patronizing businesses on that stretch takes intention, it is not a challenge.

The barriers, screening fences, patchy pavement and trucks look more intimidating than they are. Drivers can take Liberty Avenue east to Evaline Street, make a left then a left onto Penn and a right on a side street, where they can park for free. …

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