What To Do About Bellevue? By Tom Fodi

Four years ago, an article was published in the Post Gazette titled, “What To Do About Bellevue,” in which reporter Jonathan Barnes highlighted the economic struggles facing what should be a thriving, growing, prospering business district just north of Pittsburgh.  (To see the article in its entirety click here.)  Four years later, we find ourselves asking the very same question.  “What to do about Bellevue?”

In the past few weeks, Bellevue has suffered two more punches to the gut in the loss of not only Bite Bistro, but Acoustic Moose Cafe as well.  At a time when worthwhile businesses are few and far between on Lincoln Avenue, experiencing the closure of two of the best that Bellevue had to offer is a huge loss for our town.  The loss of Bite Bistro and Acoustic Moose provides future investors even less reason to consider Bellevue as a worthwhile risk.  The loss of Bite Bistro and Acoustic Moose provides future residents and home buyers another reason to overlook Bellevue as a choice to spread their roots.  The loss of Bite Bistro and Acoustic Moose provides current and future community activists less hope for the future well being of the town we cherish and call home.

The part I find most frustrating throughout the roller coaster ride that is the economics of the Borough of Bellevue is how little it is discussed and engaged by our elected leadership.  Why is it that when I attend council meetings or engage my “representatives” on the hot button issues of our community, I rarely, if ever, hear them discuss their vision, goals, hopes, even dreams for a thriving business district in Bellevue?  Why is that when I attend council meetings that no one seems to bring up plans, incentives, or even off the wall ideas for revitalization and growth on Lincoln Avenue?

Surely they must know that the residential areas of the community immediately follow the lead of the business district.  Surely they must know that the collapse of a community’s economy leads to increased drug use and crime rates.  What community in America grows without a healthy, thriving business district nearby?  This is community development 101.  It doesn’t take a PhD to figure out that residents need a reason to move, stay, and invest in a community.  Watch a few episodes of some of the “home buying shows” on HGTV and you’ll quickly understand what I’m talking about.

I’m not ignorant enough to think that what ails Bellevue can be pinned solely upon our council.  However, our council needs to know that they are in a unique position to encourage change and turn the tide of business development and economic growth.  Bellevue Council can offer tax incentives for existing and new business development/entrepreneurship.  Bellevue Council can engage the few remaining worthwhile businesses on Lincoln Avenue and consider their needs, wants, and desires.  Bellevue Council can reconsider archaic ordinances that put a stranglehold on economic growth.  Bellevue Council can, simply put, become a friend of the business district and seek to support it at all costs.

The Borough of Bellevue has been on life support for a long time and the future is looking less and less hopeful with every business that closes its doors.  Why is it that Liberty in Bellevue represents the sole entity seeking answers to the most daunting questions and challenges facing Bellevue?  How have we gotten to a place where it seems that everyone else is comfortable with the status quo of decline?

Bellevue deserves better.  Bellevue should be better.  However, the question remains for us, “What to do about Bellevue?”  If you have ideas, thoughts, criticisms, questions, hopes, dreams, or anything else to say about Bellevue, please feel free to post it here.  Be a part of the solution and let’s get to work!!!

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16 Responses to “What To Do About Bellevue? By Tom Fodi”

  1. Tom, I agree with everything you say here and all of your ideas. Keep it up. My wife has a thriving business within a business here in Bellevue and would love to have a storefront but she believes her market, based on the business district, or lack of it, cannot attract enough customers in her segment to be viable. As has been remarked not many see Bellevue as a destination. I think the greatest remedy for having attractive businesses and empty storefronts is to vote out Woshner, Braunlish and their running dogs in the next election.

  2. Bite Bistro was average at best…Rusty Nail is and has been successful so businesses do thrive…it takes more than a good location to be successful.

    • Respectfully, I (Tom), strongly disagree with you that Bite was “average at best.” I counted Bite among my top 5 restaurants in the region. However, I appreciate your feedback Allison. Just curious if you’d be willing to expand upon your statement, “It takes more than a good location to be successful.” What else does it take in your opinion? Just looking for some objective and constructive conversation. Thanks!

    • Bite Bistro was average at best? I hate to put it out there, but Bite was one of just three food businesses that bring people to Bellevue. Lincoln Bakery will always bring many folks in based on reputation. Bite Bistro and Thai Suan Thip receive near perfect reviews across the city that bring people to Bellevue for the first time. Bite sold 570 Groupons – no other Bellevue business can claim that nor probably would. No other restaurant was selling a sloppy joe sandwich made with lamb. Thai Suan Thip is the best Thai I’ve had in Pittsburgh – and there are no bad Thai restaurants in Pittsburgh.

      Before Bite, Vivo was a Top 25 restaurant in Pittsburgh. Rated higher than many landmark restaurants in the city. People came to Bellevue to spend their money. They don’t need to come to Bellevue to shop at get their hair done, order pizza, shop at a dollar store, or rent cheap furniture. They also aren’t the type of people who need a payday advance. I’m not trying to sound elitist, but many of these businesses are lowest common denominator.

  3. What is it that council wants? They sure don’t seem to want the best f

  4. What is it that council wants? They sure don’t seem to want what is best for community improvement? If they did, why would they allow so many low end retail stores to take over Bellevue? Why would they push away family centered, entertaining and nice places? I just don’t get why the council appears to want more money, but give less. What does council have against areas for our children to hang out…like rec centers, movie theaters, bowling allies? What do they have against nice restaurants and coffee houses where residents can sit outside and enjoy a drink? Seriously, if they didn’t have such a bug up their ass, Bellevue could be something amazing…it could be like the South Side. Bellevue has such great potential, and the council is letting the potential go down the drain. Enough is enough! Let Bellevue thrive…change it…change the minds of the closed minded….demand change….demand the low end businesses be limited, if not vanished….demand that slumlords be held accountable to the highest degree….fighting to make Bellevue attractive again is far more important then fighting over ordinances that are very laughable. It’s time to make Bellevue a fun and happening place for young couples to spread their roots….a place where people want to live…are proud to live….proud to call home. Changes won’t happen overnight…but you need to start somewhere! Let’s start now!! Get young people involved, get parents involved, get kids involved …..sometimes the voices of our children are the strongest. Out with the stuffy and old and in with the fresh and new!

    • Suzanne MacGuineas Reply August 29, 2012 at 8:23 am

      I am guessing that what the Council is trying to avoid is another South Side atmosphere in Bellevue. And I can understand and agree with that – but keeping Bellevue in the dark ages can only lead to poverty and crime here. I am a new resident as of February. I love my home here but driving through the “downtown” area almost brings me to tears. Bellevue is a sad little dilapidated town. It doesn’t need to be another South Side, with all the drunken carousing, but it could be an interesting destination. I think that Bellevue needs to create its own identity. It needs to become the place to go to _________ (fill in the blank). Art galleries? Antique stores? Boutiques? Independent films? We desperately need a movie theater. It needs a theme. I’m picturing a smaller, more intimate, romantic version of Shadyside or Sewickley. I’m picturing it as a daytime/early evening destination rather than a night time place for kids to get drunk. But don’t interpret that to mean that I want to keep Bellevue DRY. Can’t we aim for a more mature thoughtful crowd that enjoys a drink with their meal? Right now I get the impression that at least half the population of Bellevue is just waiting for the older members of this town (and the Council) to die off. It may take that, but maybe we could all work together and stop blaming and fighting each other and at least agree on a plan to move things forward. Or even agree that things NEED to move forward. Just my thoughts……

      • I think many believe the South Side is nothing but bars and drunk people urinating between cars. The South Side during the day is as nice as any city community with shops, restaurants, and destination businesses that bring people to the South Side. Much better models for Bellevue can be seen in places like Dormont, Oakmont, and Regent Square. Squirrel Hill and Walnut Street in Shadyside are great examples of thriving daytime business districts. Beaver is a dry town that has intentionally recruited the right tenants for their storefronts. Regent Square has successfully rebuilt its business district and also maintained its family appeal despite having one of its landmark businesses be a 6-pack shop. Alcohol isn’t evil – but if you recruit & attract the right businesses that sell alcohol, you don’t have to deal with problems.

      • Matthews Arts Gallery has been open for 7 years at 12 N. Balph Avenue, open Tuesday -Thursday until 9pm and Fridays and Saturdays 10am-5pm. September 7 is another artist’s reception but Matthews Arts will close at the end of November. Why? A business requires sales to pay the rent, utilities, buy supplies, etc. You who want these specialty shops must find them and support them. There are two antique shopping locations in Bellevue. Where are they? Enjoy Bellevue, opened in 2008, maintains a business directory of all businesses in Bellevue. You can find it at http://www.enjoybellevue.org/shop.htm. We would love to have you volunteer to support and expand the efforts of Enjoy Bellevue as a volunteer as that is what it takes to advance a community. Are you in?

  5. Bite Bistro would have been Highly successful had they been allowed to compete with other restraunt’s like themeselves when Danina’s Father first opened it You would see guys like Franco Harris in there but the lack of being able to have a glass of wine or a mixed drink quickly killed its attraction Rusty Nail Is successful due to the fact that its been there forever an the retirment community of Bellevue enjoy’s going to it for old times sake. The younger members of our town leave as soon as they get the chance I always here the same statment when talking about Bellevue with other people and it always is ” Bellevue Sucks” Maybe that could be the members of councils new running slogan ” Vote for us Because Bellevue Sucks” Me personally I like Bellevue It aint as bad as some parts of Northside an its cheaper then the North Hills, But honestly how much longer can it hold on soon this town is gonna go one way or the other and with out a reason to stop in Bellevue its gonna go to the wayside

  6. Even if you have positive personal relationships with those on Council – ask yourself this question: are you comfortable with the present direction of our community? If you answer that question with “yes,” please call me at 412-734-3502. I’ll be waiting for my phone to ring. I’d love to engage the few in a conversation about other communities like Bellevue and what they have done to reverse their decline. Government can’t save a town, but saving a town starts with government.

  7. Thank you Brian f

    • Sorry…..typing on my phone and keep hitting the wrong keys.

      Thank you Brian for seeing where I am going with my thoughts. South Side isn’t the drunkfest that many think it is. It’s an environment full of culture, diversity and richness. To be honest, Bellevue could use an eye opener to such things. Instead of letting our kids experience crime, violence and drugs, let them experience culture….positive culture. Squirrel Hill is another great comparison to what Bellevue could be. I do have a question that I’m hoping someone can answer. If Avalon and Bellevue are boroughs that share schools and community, why don’t they function as one? Wouldn’t there be a better chance for hange if more people were involved?

      • Suzanne MacGuineas September 3, 2012 at 3:46 pm

        Wow, I’m on YOUR side and you respond as though I’ve attacked you. Your paranoia could be a part of the problem. I was hoping to get involved and help where I can, but I’m re-thinking that now…..

      • I hope you aren’t saying that I’m “attacking” you. If you think that, in sorry, but that not at all how my reply was written. No worries 🙂

  8. I have lived on the border of Bellevue for almost 20 years. Every time I see progress, it quickly disappears and I don’t think it is a coincidence. To think of the potential of Bellevue and what it is has been for the last 20 years is mind boggling.

    Lets talk of the positive aspects of Bellevue and mainly that applies to those words of location, location and location. It may be the most convenient area in all of Pittsburgh, close to everything. Another aspect is its flat shopping terrain that allows an easy walk to the stores. Also Bellevue has its own library, museum and a park along with a pool. This is what some communities only wish they had and it is already part of Bellevue’s infrastructure. Bellevue also has great access to public transportation.

    Now lets talk of the negative aspects of Bellevue. First and foremost they really are unable to keep progressive businesses like Vivo’s, Roberto’s, Mojo Bistro, Bite Bistro and now the Acoustic Moose for long periods of time. They also let their movie theater turn into one of the several dollar stores or dollar store like establishments that permeate Bellevue. There is basically no night life except for pizza places or the Rusty Nail. There is also very little cultural things in the way of art galleries (only Mathews), fine dining (only Thai Suan Thip remains) music venues (since Bite Bistro and Acoustic Moose have closed) and any other related entertainment options.

    The potential of Bellevue still remains and the people who can influence change must recognize what other areas do to revitalize themselves. Lawrenceville and Regent Square are two areas to look at and ask what they did to bolster their communities. If Bellevue wants to become some sort of destination place where younger affluent people and some older alike will want to live, there must more for the people in the area in the way of cultural aspects than shop at dollar stores and have the only dining options be basically cheap eats of pizza, chinese and diner food.

    As an outsider looking in, progress only happens when the goal is to better the community as a whole. Mainly when progress is stifled, then the reasons usually involve that someone is benefiting in some financial aspect to keep the status quo. As usual just follow the money trail.

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