Friday, April 20, 2012

CBA Grocery Store Mired in Complexities

The HDCG seems to want to reassure:

But when we click on the link, we get a story:

Hall-Russell said the HHEDC is reviewing everything in conjunction with funders and store operator Jeff Ross and all remain committed to the project. She did not, however, reveal the amount of the funding shortfall or give an estimate on when construction could resume.


Even so, it is possible the shortfall is substantial. As the Courier reported in September, then construction manager Jason Matthews replaced Brinker Group LLC as the contractor after Brinker declined to reduce its $5.6 million construction bid by nearly $1 million.

Matthews, who Hall-Russell said was employed on a month-to-month contract, left when CM Solutions was announced as the new program manager last month. She said his departure was not related to his wife’s earlier departure, nor to the recent wrongful termination lawsuit she filed.

Jules Matthews filed a wrongful termination lawsuit claiming she had uncovered a misuse of funds, and was fired after bringing it to her superiors’ attention.“Our only statement on the Jules Matthews case is that we are confident that the charges will prove to be false and that we had a third party review the grants and accounting systems before her suit and it was clean,” said Hall-Russell. (Courier, Christian Morrow)

Read about the lawsuit news here, here, and here.

Unless and until the whistle blower case goes to trial, it will be hard to determine the truths of those matters. Matthews could easy have been fired for fighting corruption, or she could have been one of those people who plead "I'm a whistle blower!" when an institution turns its tables on them for any reason. And in either case, it all might have been instigated via shadowy third-party intrigue.

But because of this wrongful termination lawsuit, there's a lot more dirty laundry visible here than you would ever learn about a lot of community groups and agencies.

Perhaps there is here revealed a danger, in these public-private-foundation projects, of stakeholders eschewing leadership responsibility -- to provide leadership when nobody who feels ownership responsibility is in a leadership position.

When Redwood says,

“Look at the Consol Energy Center that went $30 million over budget and it’s all taxpayer money, so put it in perspective,” he said. “There is the $3 million development fund for the Hill District funded by the Rivers Casino, and they have an application before them. It’s frustrating but it will get done, and the Consensus Group will do whatever it can to help get it done.” (ibid)

You hope the commitment is still fierce. Things do go over budget, and encounter delays and even drama. Real business somehow always gets done.


  1. Why is this not front page news? With all the fuss about getting a grocery store, this makes me wonder about the leadership capacity and judgement of those charged with project leadership. Saying that the Pens were over budget too is deflecting the issues at hand. Accountability must be there no matter who you are, how big or small ! This is the kind of thing that should be discussed transparently and honestly. Whether it be the subsidies or hand outs to the Pens or the Hill accountability and honesty are critical to our democracy and governmental involvement. Sad, for I fear so much opportunity continues to be wasted at all levels.

  2. The "Pens over budget" argument was useful in putting the "went over budget" news in perspective. There is a marked danger in this project that in even by raising the "went over budget" banner, some will see it as something unusually unsavory and hopeless. But yes it also sets up an ideological polarity that doesn't necessarily need to be the issue.

    With all these eyes and hands on the project and all the time it's taken, I wonder who was central in vetting the project's budget and why the news breaks now...

  3. Follow the money.

  4. And in other news, look at the Garden Theater block project on the NS that is taking off. What are the differences in the projects? Is there anything to be learned?

  5. I was down that way (by the Garden) last week and I couldn't tell if anything was happening.

  6. I guess there was a new restaurant on the next block.

  7. Anon 12:22 - Agreed, the Garden Theater block looks to be in the same, "We've acquired the parcels, we made plans, we're doing press releases and news conferences" stage as the Center Ave. development -- not "taking off" to the naked eye. However am I correct to assume your point has something to do with market demand? I need to learn more about how those analyses are done and the extent to which any coefficients within it can be subjective.

  8. There is certainly a great deal of residential rebuilding happening near the Garden Theater. Somebody should run a train to that area.

  9. Could be. The townhouses up the hill on Federal have been coming in for some time; and then there's the Library. And Crazy Mocha. If anything is active on the dread "Garden Theater block" though, I've missed it. It's still nicely sealed off and painted in pop pastel. Last time I checked the old odds board, the N. Side Nakama was still slightly favored to be scrapped, but with the house effect figure even odds.

  10. Anon 9:19 you ask "Why is this not front page news?" Do you really need to ask? Who cares about the Hill District's quixotic pleas for access to fresh bread and produce? I wonder if this will put the kibosh on the Rand Corp's multi-million dollar research project though.

  11. Wayne Zukin, the Philly developer who is doing the Garden Theater makeover, is currently tied up to some degree in getting zoning variances for the Rite Aid building, which he owns, at Forbes and Murray in Squirrel Hill. He wants to add two stories to the three story building. The major hang up is parking--zoning code requires 52 new spaces for the expansion, he says he can't add any. Some local Squirrel Hill business folk are also opposing the plan. Not sure if it has any bearing on the Garden Theater, but might be worth a look.

  12. if you wonder why no one gives a hoot about a shop n save for the Hill look no further than the attitude of the residents.Last week when the DEA Task Force arrested 60 dealers in the Hill,those residents who spoke to the news media supported the drug dealers.Why build there when the people cheer drug dealers like they're Robin Hood?

  13. Anon 12:46 - As I read that article (of course I wasn't there) it was far fewer residents engaged in said heckling -- and the heckling had more to do with press conferences and the stick of policing vs. steady engagement and the carrots of jobs and programs. It sounded as though they were saying, "Stand with us more often, Mr. Mayor!" Crisis / opportunity?