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Restaurateur abandons plans for North Side’s Garden Theater

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Steven Adams | Tribune-Review
The Garden Theater block along West North Avenue in the Central North Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh. January 1, 2014.

Domenic Branduzzi’s decision to scrap plans for a new restaurant in the Garden Theater on the North Side marks another setback for an area long considered an eyesore.

“The proposition to open another restaurant after two years of waiting for important infrastructure to be built is no longer feasible for me personally,” said Branduzzi, owner of Piccolo Forno restaurant in Lawrenceville, in a statement Tuesday.

Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority is seeking bids from developers for the Allegheny City Central project and expects to select one in December.

“We’ve received as of today between six or seven responses,” said Kyra Straussman, the URA’s director of real estate.

Several groups have considered moving into the area since the URA bought the former X-rated Garden Theater in 2007.

Initially, Aiello Development and JRA Development Group were given the opportunity to develop the project, and had plans that included a bank. In 2010, however, after Aiello failed to secure an anchor tenant, it left the project.

East End Food Co-op looked like the front-runner to take over but dropped out in 2011. The next year, city officials announced Nakama restaurant as a tenant for the Masonic Temple, adjacent to the theater, but it also dropped out.

The City of Asylum Pittsburgh, a North Side nonprofit that offers literary and community programs, is in the process of either renting or buying space in the temple from the URA.

Allegheny City Development Group LLC, headed by Wayne Zukin of Philadelphia, bought the theater a year ago but is no longer involved in the rest of the project.

Sam Spatter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7843 or [email protected].

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