The food desert around the Hill District will be watered as early as this fall with the opening of a new Salem’s Food Market on Centre Avenue. 

Known for its wide variety of Arabic, Indian and Caribbean food, the owner of Salem’s Market & Grill on Penn Avenue will be purchasing a nearly 3-acre lot on Centre for $1.9 million from the Urban Redevelopment Authority [URA]. The URA’s board approved the sale to Abdullah Salem’s company on Thursday. 

Pittsburgh Councilman Daniel Lavelle, a URA board member, said on Thursday that the new store would be “looking to open late this fall” in an area that has been a food desert. The new store will be opening in the former Shop ‘n Save at Centre Heldman Plaza, which the URA acquired in 2019. The grocery space will be 30,000 square feet. 

“This is a critical investment in the city and neighborhood,” Lavelle said. He also noted that he believes the “store will be successful for decades to come but there are covenants in place.” If the store decided to sell the Centre Avenue location, the URA would be first in line to buy it, he said. 

“We are honored by the opportunity to serve this vibrant community,” Salem said during the virtual URA board meeting Thursday. “We are committed to being responsible stewards to that asset.”

The new store will be opening near one of the seven Avenues of Hope corridors. 

Avenues of Hope is a city initiative focused reviving seven mostly-Black business districts. It started in 2020 but didn’t receive funding until 2021. The URA board received updates on several Avenues of Hope initiatives on Thursday. 

The initiative will aim to target several areas in the Hill District, with funding expected to come from state and federal sources. All of the projects come with affordable housing components. The projects have not been funded yet and the URA board on Thursday only received updates on them. 

The projects:

  • Amani Christian Development Corp.’s $5 million redevelopment of three blighted parcels on Centre Avenue into a four-story building with 12 residential units. All of the units will be reserved for families making 80% or below of the area’s median income. Six of the units will be reserved for families “escaping homelessness.”
  • Big Tom’s Barbershop’s rehabilitation of a three-story building into a barbershop on the bottom floor with three housing units above. The units will be for families that make 45% to 80% of the area’s median income. The Centre Avenue development will cost nearly $3 million.
  • Communion Place on Wylie Avenue, a $4.5 million project which includes the rehabilitation of a three-story building and the construction of an adjoining four-story building that will have office space and eight apartments. Four of the units will be reserved for families making between 60% and 80% of the area’s median income. 
  • Studio Volcy’s Rhythm Square on Centre Avenue, involving the creation of a mixed use building and a second building for housing. The development is estimated to cost $3.3 million. 

The URA plans to partially fund these developments. All four of the projects involve minority- and women-owned businesses with local developers. 

“It’s a great opportunity bringing both commerce and much-needed housing  to the Hill District,” said Aster Teclay, the URA’s business strategy officer and Avenues of Hope project manager

These projects have been in the works since 2018. Funds were secured last year, according to Teclay. 

Eric Jankiewicz is PublicSource’s economic development reporter, and can be reached at or on Twitter @ericjankiewicz.

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Eric Jankiewicz is a reporter focused on housing and economic development for PublicSource. A native New Yorker, Eric moved to Pittsburgh in 2017 and has since fallen in love with his adopted city, even...