Much like Pittsburgh’s East End, the Northside is a sprawling area that encompasses a total of 18 distinct neighborhoods, including Troy Hill, Fineview, Perry North, Allegheny Center and North Shore. The region used to be its own entity—Allegheny City—until it was annexed by Pittsburgh in 1907; its history can still be seen in the charming, well-preserved homes and storefronts.
Many one-of-a-kind retail shops and restaurants are located in converted, historic buildings. In addition, the Northside is home to an array of exceptional museums and theaters, a major hospital and a community college, while beautiful parks like Allegheny Commons dot the landscape. And of course, Pittsburgh’s own Steelers and Pirates play in nearby stadiums. The views of the city are unparalleled, and you can’t beat the proximity to Downtown.
New businesses are joining established ones, comprising a unique amalgamation of experiences.
Though it is a long way from its vineyard in Mendoza, Argentina, Refucilo Winery opened three years ago on Western Avenue. “My husband, Juan Lora, has been practicing medicine in Westmoreland County for many years. His favorite pastime has been wine, and his passion took us to different places around the world to visit vineyards and to dive into the wonderful world of wine,” said Cecilia Lora, winery manager.
Lora said that a friend showed them an abandoned building on Western Avenue; after extensive renovations, it opened just over three years ago, the only Argentinian winery in Pittsburgh.
“The space has been transformed into a cozy space where customers may come to sip a glass, or a bottle paired with tapas. Our goal has always been to provide an enjoyable experience for all who come through our front door,” said Lora.
She added that they are glad to be part of the Northside community. “In this neighborhood, you will see that the older population has welcomed a younger one. A revitalization of the area is evident as new stores have opened,” said Lora. “Business owners have had the support of the Northside/North Shore Chamber of Commerce, who provided helpful information to help us get through the crisis and who continuously provide opportunities for business owners to meet and get to know each other.”
Another relative newcomer to the area is The Government Center, a record store that Deutschtown resident Josh Cozby opened three years ago. Over the past several months, Cozby has expanded his business to include a live performance space and an espresso bar, moving from East Ohio Street to East Street. Though the new space has a pretty large footprint, Cozby jokes that his new building was “Frankensteined” together and probably includes a mishmash of three or four buildings, all of which date back to the Allegheny City time period.
Cozby said that businesswise, the Northside is still in transition, though it is an up-and-coming neighborhood with some new, upscale restaurants having opened recently. He noted that the growth of the business sector has lagged slightly behind the growth of the residential part of the neighborhood, but good things are happening. In general, Cozby believes the neighborhood growth is going in the right direction.
“I think it’s an attractive place to be and an easy place to live. Housing prices have been going up in this neighborhood, and there are improvements to the Commons that have made the park easier to use and more attractive to neighborhood residents,” he said. “I know I have not had any regrets about picking this particular neighborhood for either my home or my business.”
Shorty’s Pins and Pints was expected to open in late January. According to Mike Hanley, president and partner, the new place will be a laidback spot with an old-school vibe. “Retro gaming, like duckpin bowling, shuffleboard, foosball and pinball are mixed with more modern elements like our ‘social ready’ photo booth and house-made draft cocktails,” he said. The kitchen will serve Mexican street food.
Hanley said that the vibrant and lively energy of Pittsburgh’s North Shore made it the perfect location for the first Shorty’s spot. “The beautiful river and city views didn’t hurt either,” he added.
Hanley also operates Burgatory, across the street from Shorty’s, so he’s familiar with the area. “The continued development on the North Shore just keeps making the area more vibrant and busier year-round, and it’s pretty cool being neighbors with the Steelers and Pirates,” he said, adding that he has great community relationships with all of the other restaurants and businesses in the area.
New hotels have also popped up over the years, indicative of the North Shore’s growth, including a new Comfort Inn and Suites on East Ohio Street. John Graf is a partner in that new venture, but has operated The Priory Hotel for several decades. That hotel, established in 1986 in historic Deutschtown, began its life in 1888 as St. Mary’s Priory, a home for Benedictine monks and priests.
For Graf, the Northside has been the ideal, strategic location for the hospitality business. “There’s a lot going on in the area, particularly in the Flats region, which is Deutschtown, Central Northside, Manchester and Allegheny West,” he said. “I would submit that it has the highest concentration of attractions in the whole city of Pittsburgh, when you consider the casino, PNC Park, Heinz Field and the Warhol Museum; there’s a lot to attract people coming to Pittsburgh for leisure or coming for business.”
Graf added that citizens are committed to keeping the Northside neighborhoods safe, and that residents and business owners value historic preservation. Downtown Pittsburgh, a stone’s throw away, may be the home of the Cultural District, but the Northside has its fair share of cultural offerings, from The Mattress Factory to Randyland to The National Aviary and much more.
The New Hazlett Theater occupies the space where the Pittsburgh Public Theater (PPT) used to be until it moved downtown. Executive Director René Conrad said that the building is 125 years old and was one of the original Carnegie music hall/library combinations. After the PPT left the space, it was used by various arts groups until the New Hazlett moved in, leasing it from the city and completing several million dollars in renovations. Conrad said that in general, the theater is fully occupied with either a rehearsal or performance about 75 percent of the year, and it serves about 25,000-30,000 guests annually.
Conrad has seen many positive changes in the area over the past decade. “When I started here in 2011, Allegheny Center was a ghost town; it was us and the Children’s Museum and some apartments, and we were all in this little island. The mall was still there but pretty much nothing else,” she said. “We were drawing a lot of people in at night, and the Children’s Museum was drawing a lot of people in the day, but that was it—no one came for anything else.”
“When the mall was sold and Nova Place came, suddenly it was a much, much more vibrant community in the day—now there are workers, restaurants and businesses,” she continued. “We are close to East Ohio Street and that has evolved in that time; there’s a lot more activity happening.”