For more than 130 years, the five-way intersection near the entrance of South Park has been a hub of activity for Bethel Park residents as well as shoppers from throughout the South Hills communities of Pittsburgh.
At one time there was a general store, blacksmith shop and local cider press.
The Murdoch family, who owns the property located at the intersection of Library and South Park roads in Bethel Park, hopes to continue that tradition and “create gathering spaces” on the corner.
“This crossroads has always been a community center,” said Molly Finnell at a groundbreaking ceremony for Parkside Center.
Finnell along with her three cousins are principals in the real estate company that owns the property as well as South Park Shops, McDonald’s and Eat’n Park.
“We hope to reorganize, revitalize and refresh this corner,” she said.
Once completed, Parkside Center will consist of two new structures.
A 10,000-square-foot, one-story neighborhood retail framework, which will feature five shops. This first phase of the project is expected to be completed by late fall of 2019.
An additional 5,000-square-foot edifice will be built once a tenant has been identified. It is zoned for financial, office or medical use. Both projects replace three existing buildings including the former Elks Lodge.
“It’s a phenomenal development that will definitely enhance the area and improve the corner,” said Jeff Skocik, who leads the commercial lending team of Brentwood Bank.
The financial institution is backing the effort in part because of its positive experience as a South Park Shop tenant.
The bank wanted to work with the Murdoch team because it’s “a great community project,” said Nick Garrubba, executive vice president at Brentwood Bank.
“It’s a very exciting endeavor that will bring new life to this corner and be an attraction to a lot of people,” he said. “It’s great to be revitalizing this area and we love to invest in places where people want to be.”
Council President Tim Moury, Councilman Joseph A. Consolmagno and Mayor Jack Allen agreed.
The municipality officials look forward to seeing the completed structures.
Noting it was a great day in Bethel Park, Allen said at the groundbreaking ceremony Parkside Center “will put a touch” on this corner.
While the corner is the geographic concentration of the Murdoch family business, Molly, the developer, Mara, the principal of Murdoch Architects, and design consultant, and Paul Schneider, who works on construction loan management, were cognizant of the project being developed close to a residential area. They met with the neighbors and sought their input.
As a result, they pitched items such as a lower roof, smaller stores and landscaping in its designs. They also worked diligently with the zoning and safety boards as well as municipality services, including the fire and police departments, to make sure everything met code standards.
According to Finnell, the site was “complicated” for the design teams because it entailed five lots, three zoning classifications, rising grades on two roads as well as being situated on a corner.
L2 Design Studio LLC, of Baltimore, is the architect for the new building. Moore Design Associates is performing the civil and landscape design for the project. The general contractor is Fairchance Construction Co.
Upon completion, Kim McKinney and Debbie Holden, the property manager and assistant for South Park Shops, will manage and maintain the new sites.
“We want this center to have a welcoming neighborhood atmosphere,” Finnell said. “It’s not going to be the typical cookie-cutter retail space. We want the shops and services that support the adjoining neighborhood on a weekly basis and create spaces where people really want to be.”
As a result, Parkside Center LP has invested in landscaping, flowers and banners. The new center will also be involved in community events such as those sponsored by South Park Shops like touch-a-truck, Halloween trick-or-trick and December holiday specials.
“We are really excited about this new addition to the community,” Finnell said. “It is going to be a big improvement. We wanted something serviceable and useful but we also wanted it to have character.”