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The Hill House Economic Development Corp. (HHEDC), a Pittsburgh-based community development organization, and the Hill House Association (HHA), its parent organization and affiliate, marked the opening of Centre Heldman Plaza, anchored by Shop ’n Save, a 29,500-square-foot full-service grocery store – the first in the city’s Hill District for more than 30 years.
To mark the occasion, a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by state and community figures, as well as 105-year-old lifelong Hill District resident Lillian Allen, took place on Oct. 17, to be followed by an Oct. 19 street fair-style Community Day celebration featuring performers and entertainment, a children’s activity area, games, health-and-wellness screenings, and refreshments.
In the works since early 2011, the $12.5 million shopping center will provide permanent employment and services for area residents. “After nearly three decades, the community and region formed partnerships to make Centre Heldman Plaza a reality,” said Cheryl Hall-Russell, president and CEO of HHA and HHEDC. “It has taken many hours and a high degree of commitment from those who understand the dynamics of such a project and the ultimate economic spur created by the completion of this complex.”
Hall-Russell added that the store opening “brings an end to the designation of the Hill District as a food desert, a time when seniors could not buy fresh food conveniently and young people lacked access to nutritious meals.”
The First Source Center (FSC), a regional resource for workforce development operating under the auspices of the HHA, played a key role in matching local residents with employment at the Shop’ n Save. The store is owned and operated by Ross Markets, whose principal, Jeff Ross, work with with various community and business organizations to bring the project to fruition.
“We understand how important it is to have a full-service store that provides fresh food to the Hill District community,” noted Ross. “We also recognize the need to create an economic impact for the community. To that end, almost 65 percent of all of the 100-plus new employees are Hill District residents. Almost 95 percent of the entire workforce is minority. Many of these individuals have not had prior experience, and we are spending all the time necessary to train them to ensure their success.”
Additional space in the plaza has been leased by Dollar Bank, Nationwide Insurance, Crazy Mocha Coffee, Subway and Cricket Communications, which are slated to open for business by early 2014. The new retail outlets are expected to drive a revitalization of the Centre Avenue corridor.