Throwback: Redevelopment Boom

By Matt Serakowski

May 1997 Cover Image; an architect's rendering of the Upper St. Clair High School Modernization; underwritten by Fanning/Howey Associates, Inc.; Developed by Joseph R. Gasparella and Weijun Liu

Throwback with TODAY

Redevelopment Book By Matt Serakowski May 1997; pages 20 & 21

The Township has experienced a flurry of redevelopment over the past few years. This has resulted in increased activity in the Township's sometimes overlooked commercial hubs, particularly in the Washington Road and McLaughlin Run Road corridors.

Many of the Township's longtime residents have known 25 McMurray Road as Gammon's Family Restaurant, originally constructed in 1968. Others may remember the site as the location of Anthony's, Sorry Charlie Restaurant or Vernon Law's Winning Steak, or most recently, for the fans of the famous Primanti Brothers sandwich, the Santa Fe Restaurant. In 1994, representatives of the Florida-based Outback Steakhouse chose the site for one of its new restaurants in the Pittsburgh area (top left).

top left image

Jake Daurora, proprietor of the Upper St. Clair restaurant, says that "the demographics of the Township and surrounding area coupled with the reputation of Upper St. Clair" secured that decision. Additionally, he believed that Township residents would support the Outback Steakhouse concept while others outside the Township would be drawn by the prestige of an Upper St. Clair location.

Another noticeable transformation has been the old Fife Country Market on Route 19. Tom Robinson, the new landowner, and proprietor Michael Dissen have reopened the market for gasoline and convenience sales. Improvements to the site have included new pavement, exterior remodeling and painting, the installation of EPA approved gasoline dispensers and new signs. (See below).

(this was below the text); 1997 picture

Both owner and proprietor worked with the Township in devising a sign scheme that blended the need for maintaining the visual environment and protecting the general welfare of the surrounding neighborhoods, while addressing the operational needs of the business. This site dates back to a small block building where cars were washed for one dollar in 1947 (see below).

small block building 1947

Since then, the gasoline service station has evolved into different forms while maintaining a similar use. For a time in the early 1990s the shop sat vacant and was put up for sale. Mr. Robinson, who has developed properties throughout the South Hills, viewed this as "an opportunity to turn the property around." Mr. Dissen, with his experience as owner and operator of the A-Plus in McMurray, credits a need for a convenience store and gas station to service the immediate community in his decision to reopen the business.

The former Pinebridge Mall (top right) has taken on a new look that is also hard to miss. This includes a modified exterior, new tenants and a new name. Pinebridge Commons President Michael Giglotti has spearheaded a dramatic renewal, taking the building from 47 percent to 87 percent occupancy and making cosmetic, structural, and fire safety improvements. Mr. Giglotti says, "I have always thought that the Pinebridge property was a valuable and interesting piece of property." while envisioning the property's aesthetic potential and strategic location, he "liked the challenge of renovating the facility and taking advantage of its unique qualities." (see article on page 41.)

this picture is the "top right" picture

The McLaughlin Run corridor has seen additional economic development in the services sector. Berton's Lawnmower Service, located at 1393 McLaughlin Run Road, recently opened in a renovated storage garage. The business offers lawnmower sales and service repair. The old building is hardly recognizable now with its new sales and service area, paved parking area, and landscape plantings.

Boyce Road travelers will also see some changes that go beyond the new bridge that links Upper St. Clair and South Fayette. Ardolino's Pizza, formerly of Bethel Park, has most recently relocated to 1141 Boyce Road. Owner Rodney Ardolino has made many improvements to the former house. These modifications included handicap accessibility, state of the art ovens and parking lot improvements.

Other businesses that within the last few years have renovated buildings and chosen Upper St. Clair as their place to call home include Dick's Sporting Goods, located in the old Busy Beaver Store at South Hills Village; Einstein Bros. Bagels located in Crossgates Plaza; Herman J. Heyl Florist, located on Washington Road adjacent to St. Clair Mini Mart (see bottom right photo) and Mosebach Manufacturing and Horton Company both located in the old Kool Vent Building along McLaughlin Run Road. The Horton Company manufactures electrically operated fluid control valves for appliances from dishwashers to washing machines and for applications from water purification to beverage dispensing. The firm started in Pittsburgh's bustling Strip District over fifty years ago but recently relocated to the McLaughlin Run corridor. Company President Don Del Grate was unable to find another building suitably located and feasible within the Strip District. A resident of Upper St. Clair, Mr. Del Frate found a building that fits his company's business needs right on McLaughlin Run Road.

These many areas of commercial redevelopment do more than just enhance the community. They also augment the Township's otherwise predominantly residential tax base. A number of other small businesses continue to locate within the municipality for many reasons, most commonly the access to major highway arteries.

The Township of Upper St. Clair is a community known for its prestigious neighborhoods and beautiful homes. Development within Upper St. Clair is principally single family dwellings, comprising a distinguished bedroom community. Yet as the redevelopment boom demonstrates, Upper St. Clair provides a welcome setting to businesses that can coexist and thrive alongside our neighborhoods full of character.

Matt Serakowski is Chief Inspector/Deputy Zoning Administrator for the Community Development Department.

Older photo provided by USC Historical Society

Pinebridge Commons Now More Than Just a Vision

May 1997; page 41

A few years ago, Pinebridge Mall was deteriorating in looks and business. Looking at this new modern design, complementary color schemes and beautiful landscaping, images of the old, rustic mall are memories now. In two short years, Michael Giglotti, managing partner and president of Pinebridge Commons, and a group of six other investors turned Pinebridge Commons into a viable center for small businesses. Now 90 percent occupied, Giglotti hopes to have the remaining office space filled within the year.

"Its (Pinebridge) is going better than even I had envisioned," comments Giglotti. "I viewed this property as a good investment with tremendous potential."

Giglotti's vision was to renovate the mall to provide a serene environment for small businesses. Renovations included extensive exterior and interior changes including architectural redesigns with a contemporary image. Hardwood floors and exotic oriental carpets create a home-like work environment for business tenants.

"Most of the businesses located in Pinebridge Commons are owned or operated by local residents," said Giglotti. "I believe they like the idea of working close to home and avoiding a long commute."

Giglotti, who is one of three partners in Questa Petroleum co., moved his natural gas development company into Pinebridge from Peters Township. A 26-year resident of Upper St. Clair, he has had what appears to be a golden touch when it comes to seeing potential in a business. Living a short distance from Pinebridge, Giglotti watched the old Pinebridge Mall face extinction as it was sold and resold over the years. His vision of Pinebridge has now paid off not only for the investors, but for many locally-owned businesses. After investing substantial dollars in the Pinebridge renovations, Giglotti said that it has attracted many new tenants to add to the existing list of tenants which includes a pharmacy, hair salon, dry cleaners, travel agent, insurance agent, investment adviser, doctors, dentists and business offices.

"I consider myself a frustrated contractor, I guess," laughs Giglotti. "I have always enjoyed construction work and I'm always anxious to see a project of this magnitude take shape. Our goal was to create a nice, quiet environment for professionals."

Giglotti attributes the rental of office space to nothing more than word of mouth.

"No rental agents are used," Giglotti said. All of our inquiries came from either word of mouth or simply curiosity when businesses saw the new construction."

Although most of the space in Pinebridge is reserved for professional businesses, retailers also have a place in the complex. Giglotti adds that parking is very convenient and he is happy to have kept Pinebridge alive and thriving in the Upper St. Clair community.

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