Live. Work. Play…and Build. There’s
a lot of construction taking place in
East Liberty these days, with more
to come. New developments
abound at just about every corner,
and keeping track of it all
is work in itself, requiring
nothing less than a roadmap—or better yet,
an animated PowerPoint presentation.
Steve Mosites and Mark Minnerly of The
Mosites Company press the “play” button to
start a video illustrating exactly what they have
in mind for a $133 million investment in
EastSide Phases III and IV on a six-acre site
across Penn Avenue from the Target store.
Right: A rendering of the East Plaza that is
part of the proposed EastSide III design.
“This is so much, your head is going to
blow up,” Minnerly warns jokingly.
Even the video can’t explain all the nuances
of putting such a complicated deal together.
Pausing it almost immediately, they explain
how a $15 million TIGER IV (Transit
Investments Generating Economic Recovery)
grant awarded to the Urban Redevelopment
Authority (URA) of Pittsburgh made possible
the final go-ahead for their master plan of the
East Liberty Transit Center. The plan includes
the re-positioning of the East Liberty bus station
along the Martin Luther King Jr. East
Busway and construction of a more intuitive,
landscaped, and pedestrian-friendly entry plaza.
The video plays on to show various stages
of demolition of pedestrian bridges and the
National Indoor Tennis Club. An elevated
road will then connect Highland and Penn
avenues, which ingeniously will be the new
grade level for the transit-oriented development consisting of a two-level parking garage
with 560 spaces, 43,000 square feet of groundfloor
retail space, and 350 apartments. At a
total of 650,000 square feet of gross building
area, it will be more than double the size of
Target. Demolition work is to be completed
by late fall, with the entire timeline stretching
out into early 2016.
Left: A rendering of an aerial view of the EastSide III
complex, with the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway
in the foreground and the spire of East Liberty
Presbyterian Church rising in the distance.
At the end of the video, Minnerly sums up
his vision for this site in the middle of The
Mosites Company’s 16 acres along the border
of Shadyside and East Liberty. “This is the
jewel in the crown,” he says.
The area has come a long way in the dozen
years since the Yellow Cab Company’s worn
headquarters building and parking lot on Centre
Avenue plus a neighboring car wash were demolished
to make way for the bustling EastSide I and
its anchor store, Whole Foods Market.
Besides convenience to consumers, the
success of all phases of EastSide is partially
realized in the 600 to 700 jobs generated by
EastSide II, Target, and Whole Foods. Whole
Foods has been so successful that an expansion
is in the works. A two-story extension of the
store into the parking lot will add more space
for prepared foods, produce, and other departments
like a wine and beer bar.
Right: Whole Foods Market, the first of the EastSide
complex projects, has been so successful it is now slated
But don’t worry—looking for a parking
place may actually get easier, too. “Parking
would be increased by 50 percent,” says
Mosites, who explains how there would be
less parking on the Centre Avenue entrance
level, but more available when the upper-deck
parking area of EastSide II is extended to meet
the new second level of Whole Foods. Now
the problem is how to make all of these
improvements while keeping the store open.
The achievements at EastSide can be
traced back to the brainstorm Molly Blasier
had in 1998 to lure Whole Foods to East
Liberty. Now it has come full circle for Blasier,
principal of Blasier Urban, LLC, as she takes
advantage of that same momentum she helped
foster by co-developing a project with ELDI
Real Estate, LLC.
Right: As depicted in this rendering, plans for The Odeon Building
include a restaurant and movie theater topped by luxury
apartments, all to be built along Penn Avenue,
beginning where the former PNC Bank
(below) stands vacant on
South Highland Avenue.
ELDI stands for East
Liberty Development, Inc., a
corporation formed as a nonprofit
by the East Liberty
Quarter Chamber of
Commerce in 1979 to facilitate
the neighborhood’s revitalization.
It owns contiguous
properties starting at the former
PNC Bank at the corner
of South Highland and Penn
Those buildings are slated
for demolition as early as next
summer to make way for The
Odeon Building, which will
have a digital multiplex movie theater and a
full-service restaurant, both owned by Odeon
Entertainment, but operated by Atlanta-based
Spotlight Theatres. Fifty-six luxury apartments
will be built on four floors above the theater,
along with 43 sub-grade residential parking
“What The Odeon Building will do is
finally bring a sense of life to that core strip of
Penn Avenue, that older core, which is fabulous,”
Across the street, ELDI has begun work on
a $500,000 development called Town Square,
slated for completion this fall. The idea is to
mimic a European-style cathedral plaza by
transforming the front yard of the East Liberty
Presbyterian Church. Storm water mitigation
will capture the rain coming off the church
and water the thousands of plants and trees
being added. “We will have created a plaza
with landscaping and tree cover where people
can go and gather, sit, and have lunch,” says Skip Schwab, investment officer for ELDI.
“It’s going to be gorgeous.”
Perfect timing. You can grab a sandwich
and a smoothie from Creamy Creations opening
across the street, or take out a soup and
salad from Everyday’s A Sundae & Café,
which just moved into the former Vanilla
Pastry Studio space along Centre Avenue.
ELDI Real Estate, LLC is also partnering
with developer Matt Ciccone on a $20 million
renovation to transform the vacant, centuryold
YMCA building on Whitfield Street into a
65-room Ace Hotel, hoping to start construction
before year’s end. Ace operates boutique
hotels in Seattle, Portland, New York, and Palm Springs. Each has a position for a “cultural
engineer” in charge of scheduling programming
with local talent that helps to create
the unique vibe that led The New York Times
to call it “the country’s most original new
Up two blocks from the future Ace Hotel,
construction is under way on a new Hotel
Indigo, part of an InterContinental Hotels
Group chain referred to as the first branded
boutique hotel. Developer Nigel Parkinson is
the owner of Washington, D.C.-based 2414
Morgan Development and its sister company,
Parkinson Construction, a sub-contractor on
both the building of Nationals Park baseball
stadium in Washington and a renovation of
After an acquaintance introduced him to
Pittsburgh, Parkinson started assembling properties
in 2005 in the block surrounded by
Kirkwood, Whitfield, and Broad streets and
North Highland Avenue. When private financing
dried up during the recession, the $20 million
hotel project was mothballed. But it’s back
now, and three existing buildings, including
the vacant old Governor’s Hotel, are being preserved
and incorporated, along with a new
addition, into the 137-suite Hotel Indigo.
Right: Plans are in the works to convert this former YMCA
building on Whitfield Street into a boutique Ace Hotel.
“There’s some aspect to older buildings
that you cannot replicate,” Parkinson says. “It’s
easy when you tear down and build new, but
when you renovate, you have to think.”
The Hotel Indigo is part of a complex
Parkinson is calling Indigo Square, which launched with a recently completed plaza of
unique shops. Olive & Marlowe sells gourmet
olive oil and balsamic vinegar sourced
from California, while Kiya Tomlin
Pittsburgh specializes in custom-designed
dresses for women, teens, and children. Next
door is chemistry, where owner Jeneane
Hugus carries women’s contemporary clothing.
Two doors away, her husband, Brent
Hugus, and his partner, John Nicklas, are
planning an October opening for their second
location of Luxe, a kitchen and bath
“It’s definitely picking up with all the new
construction and new retailers here,” Jeneane
Hugus says. “And we are glad to be one of the
first ones here.”
Just across the street from Indigo Square,
Julia Reynolds opened The Shop in East
Liberty a year ago selling what she calls “everyday
artwork”—affordable art, home goods,
and jewelry. Her shop is within walking distance
from the home in East Liberty she
bought from ELDI. “I love it here,” she says “I think ELDI has a good thing going. It
seems they created this essential perimeter
around East Liberty, and gradually over time,
it’s sort of moving inward toward the core of
the East Liberty business district, which I
think has been a pretty smart move on their
ELDI is selling two properties on the corner
of Penn Avenue and Penn Circle East
across from Target to Tony Dolan, president of
Alphabet City Development. They will be assembled with a third parcel he already owns.
The project, named East Liberty Center, is (at
press time) in the approval process, and
designs indicate new construction with one
level of retail and five stories of office space
Right: The first of the cluster of upscale boutiques to open in the
core of the neighborhood, The Shop in East Liberty
carries artistic goods for the home.
“I want it to be a signature building—one
that would be worthy of its position in that
neighborhood given that it will be one of the
first new projects within East Liberty’s core in
a very long time,” Dolan says.
Just on the edge of where the business core
meets newer residential development is the
East End Cooperative Ministry’s nearly completed
Community House, a $14 million project
that will allow the nonprofit organization
to operate its various programs under a single
roof and expand its services. EECM is an
interfaith ministry that helps at-risk youth, the
hungry, the homeless, and others in need
throughout the East End.
“The Community House duplicates what
the neighborhood looks like,” says Myrna
Zelenitz, executive director of EECM. “Lots of
porches and places for people to sit, so it’s
where everyone in the neighborhood can
come together. I’m thrilled for the community.
Everyone will be welcome with open arms.”
Of course one of the major coups underlying
the East Liberty renaissance has been the
location and subsequent growth of the Google
Pittsburgh offices in the nearby Bakery Square
development along Penn Avenue in Larimer.
Emerging entrepreneurs have followed suit,
starting up their high-tech businesses in coworking
and incubator spaces in East Liberty
like The Beauty Shoppe, Thrill Mill, and,
most recently, AlphaLab Gear, which is
launching this fall.
“It’s an up-and-coming place where the
young, progressive people in the city want to
live,” says John Dick, founder and CEO of
CivicScience, a polling and data mining company.
Dick, a Fox Chapel resident, started his
business in the Strip District, but moved to
East Liberty recently to better attract software
engineers to his company.
And as more and more “Googlers” and
other young professionals move into the East
End, they are seeking places to live nearby.
Gregg Perelman of Walnut Capital is
answering the call. His firm and Massaro
Properties partnered in the $30 million renovation
of the Highland and Wallace buildings,
converting what were originally designed as
professional offices back in 1910 into 117
apartments. Mainly one-bedroom, but also
some two- and three-bedroom units, rental
rates at Walnut on Highland range from
$1,300 to $2,000 depending on the view, the
layout, and the number of windows.
Left: Bakery Square, the redeveloped former
Nabisco plant launched in the summer of
2010, has brought young professionals
into the area and helped fuel the need
for more new apartments
“There’s a pent-up demand,” Perelman
says. “It’s very gratifying to see that people are
embracing the idea of moving into East Liberty. In Pittsburgh, we are all about borders
and where you can go and can’t go, but people
from out of town, they look at the whole area,
and not at borders per se. So for them this is a
very cool apartment building to be able to
move into where everything is brand-new, and
they can walk out and be in a neighborhood
that is coming of age.”
For tenants of Walnut on Highland, it will
be an easy elevator ride down for a haircut at
Great Clips or to meet friends for a margarita
and enchiladas at Patron Mexican Grill opening
on the first floor of the Wallace Building.
Across the street, Bobby Fry and his partners
at Bar Marco in the Strip District are opening
The Livermore bar and eatery in the former
Waffle Shop space.
“East Liberty is really an amazing center
for innovation and a young style of living,” Fry
says. “And I think The Livermore will
absolutely appeal to the people here because
it’s modeled after a lot of bars in Brooklyn,
where there is a similar kind of scene as East
Right: Constructed in 1910, the Highland Building was
designed by noted architect Daniel Hudson Burnham,
whose other works include the Frick Building in
Downtown Pittsburgh and Union Station in Washington,
D.C. Walnut Capital converted it into an apartment
building, which opened to tenants over the summer.
The Livermore and Patron are just the latest
additions to a burgeoning dining scene in
East Liberty. Last year, pioneering local restaurateur
Kevin Sousa (of Salt in neighboring
Garfield) opened Union Pig and Chicken, a
full-service barbecue eatery, on North
Highland Avenue in the neighborhood’s core.
Months later he launched Harvard &
Highland, a craft cocktail bar, right above it.
Then award-winning chef David Racicot
opened Notion just a few blocks away, bringing
sophisticated fine dining to the core.
These new establishments have joined
other nearby popular restaurants like Spoon,
Brgr, Plum, Paris 66, Dinette, and Tana in creating
a critical mass of acclaimed dining
options to draw people in from across the metropolitan
“It’s good to see new businesses coming in
to give people a lot more options as far as
restaurants go,” says Kristian Trapl, manager
of Don’s Appliances, which moved into the
heart of East Liberty seven years ago. “It’s good
to see that people are investing in this area of
Left: Diners on the patio at Plum, situated at the corner
of South Highland Avenue and Penn Circle South, have a
front row seat to the redevelopment taking place at the
Wallace Building across the street.
Real estate developer Eddie Lesoon, Jr. of
The Wedgwood Group has invested heavily in
area. He owns property throughout East
Liberty and is doing his part to attract people
to the neighborhood. Over the past six years,
as other developers were building and renovating
on the perimeter, Lesoon went straight to
the heart, revitalizing buildings on Broad
Street and near the intersection of Penn and
Right: New light
fixtures on the Highland and Wallace buildings
complement the historic structures.
“East Liberty Quarter Chamber of
Commerce had the vision to say that the only
way East Liberty as a whole could survive and
succeed is if we went down the middle and
purged the place of all its negatives, which is
the old bars and the other places where people
were hanging out,” says the developer, who is
the chamber’s vice president.
Left: Flower baskets, spearheaded by the East Liberty Quarter
Chamber of Commerce with help from local businesses,
add color to Broad Street.
Those efforts paid off when tenants like
Sousa, with his popular restaurants, Reynolds, with her tasteful shop, and several
incubators moved into Lesoon’s properties.
Now he’s “very, very excited” about his most
recent new tenant, Peace, Love, & Zen
Holistic Wellness Center, which is opening
its doors this fall and featuring the region’s
first Himalayan salt cave (see page 81). “It is going to draw in a lot of people from all over
the city of Pittsburgh to see it,” says Lesoon.
In addition to crediting the neighborhood
chamber for helping to bring about the positive
changes he is seeing around him, Lesoon
also offers “a huge thanks” to the URA.
“Without the URA, we could have never done
it—their guidance, their funding; they were
great,” he says.
Right: Union Pig and Chicken has become an East Liberty
Lesoon’s desire to attract high-quality tenants
is shared by the other major developers in
East Liberty, who all have their eye on the
prize, says Lori Moran, vice president of
Ballymoney Real Estate Services, Inc., which
manages The Village of East Side on Penn
“We all have the same philosophy, which is
it’s better to sit on a vacancy and not collect
rent then to lease to someone who’s not good
for your shopping center,” she explains.
“Bakery Square is doing that. Mosites is doing
that. And we’ve been doing that since we
brought in Trader Joe’s back in 2006.
“So could we be 100 percent leased?
Absolutely, with our eyes shut. But you can
lease or you can revitalize,” she says with
Left: The Wedgwood Group’s freshly renovated properties dot
East Liberty’s core. The building on the left will soon open
as a holistic wellness center.
That philosophy seems to be working.
The recent arrival of Alterations Express,
plus a few lease agreements pending at
press time bring the first-floor retail occupancy
rate at The Village of East Side to 92
A few blocks away, Walnut Capital has
begun executing a master plan to expand
Bakery Square, which has reached capacity
with more than 1,000 employees working
there at Google, UPMC, the University of
Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon’s Software
Engineering Institute, and the Veterans
Administration Pittsburgh Human Engineering
Called Bakery 2.0, the $130 million project
is under way across the street from Bakery
Square on a 12-acre parcel in Shadyside once
occupied by Reizenstein Middle School. In the
plans are 400,000 square feet of office space,
two apartment rental buildings with 175
apartments each, and 57 townhomes for rent.
Construction has begun on the first of the two
“Basically we are creating a campus environment
here,” Perelman says. “With the
[Springhill Suites] hotel, new restaurant
[Social] opening here, all of the office tenants
here, now we have a place where people can
live in an apartment or town home, and it just
makes it one big campus that we have created
Left: A rendering of the Bakery Square 2.0 development that is now under construction across
the street from Bakery Square, which is also pictured here.
Though technically just beyond the borders
of East Liberty, the Bakery Square projects
are strategic elements in the continued revitalization of the neighborhood. Everyone
seems to get the significance of moving toward
the core and bringing back a healthy variety of
businesses so there is something for everyone.
“On the one hand you have Julia
[Reynolds of The Shop in East Liberty], who
opens a darling little gift shop,” says Moran,
who is also president of the East Liberty
Quarter Chamber of Commerce. “And on the
other end, you have the 800-lb. gorillas of
Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Target, with everything
in between. Having a mix of tenants and
a mix of uses is the key to sustaining a revitalization
program. And that’s what we have.”
Yes, but…“People are still upset that the
car wash is gone,” Schwab says.
Right: Café tables on Penn Avenue are a small but significant
sign of the turn-around taking place in East Liberty.