Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Gutter: Businesses wanted (full clothing required)

Well, my last six blog posts have been about The Parkway West Rock Thrower, so I decided it was time for a diversion.

A sexy diversion.

A lap-dancing diversion.

A dollar-bill-waving-at-a-dirty-G-string diversion.

And when I want that kind of diversion, I head on over to the Pittsburgh Comet. Okay, so maybe I don’t go to that blog when I want that kind of diversion. But I did go there today in search of some kind of diversion, and I found something that fit those categories I listed.

The blog post that I am particularly interested in is the reference to Eric Heyl’s column in the Trib. The column is about an apparent attempt to open a Scores gentleman’s club in Homestead. (In case you’re unsure, here’s a link to the Scores website, courtesy of the Comet.)

Anyway, the gist of it is that a developer wants to put Scores in the vacated Monongahela Trust Co. building on East Eighth Avenue. That’s the main stretch in Homestead, the one that the Hi-Level Bridge ends on. But of course, there is significant opposition in Homestead.

In fact, there is so much opposition that laws have actually been changed, not to prevent the strip club from coming to Homestead, but rather to make Homestead an altogether unappealing place for a strip club to operate.

Upon hearing of plans to open Scores last summer, borough officials tweaked the local law governing adult gyration and hyperventilation.

Distance requirements now exist between dancers and patrons, and no tipping is allowed. Because most women in such places dance for tips rather than a strenuous cardiovascular workout, the law's impact on Scores could be devastating.

Okay, I’ll be honest about two things:

1) I don’t really care if there is a Scores in Homestead or not.

2) I don’t really care if the people/government of Homestead want to prevent Scores from setting up shop.

Heyl’s column has a headline of something about “free speech” and “morality” or some such; being honest again, I don’t really care about that either. If the borough doesn’t want a strip club on the main street, that’s their prerogative. If they think it’s immoral (or perhaps just amoral), so be it. Like I said: I don’t care.

However, there are some interesting points in Heyl’s column that I think are worthy of discussion.

If the club ever opens, it would be one of the few businesses in recent memory to debut along East Eighth Avenue, the borough's main thoroughfare…

…In the eight years since the sprawling Waterfront shopping and entertainment complex opened on the site of the former U.S. Steel Homestead Works, borough officials anxiously have awaited trickle-down development.

This is what always gets me about Homestead: they really believed that the Waterfront would reinvigorate the area by increasing the sheer volume of people who visited. They were correct in the projected number of visitors to the Waterfront, but there was one major oversight.

With the Hi-Level Bridge being the primary source of access to the Waterfront, and ramps from the aforementioned bridge leading straight into the Waterfront, people could hit up the shopping center and entertainment complex without once touching Homestead. So the trickle-down effect didn’t exactly take place, and Homestead has fallen far short of the renaissance that was expected to result from the Waterfront.

What we’ve ended up with is a sprawling shopping center that, through what now appears to be almost coincidence, abuts a dilapidated former steel town. But never mind that wreck of a village, out-of-town-visitors; after you’ve finished your shopping you can get even further away from dingy borough by driving from the Waterfront directly to our city’s water park, Sandcastle. And when you’re done there, just hop back on the highway and never even soil your eyes with the vacant-building-ridden streets of Homestead.

But hey, at least those vacants aren’t home to women dancing naked for money.

…people in Homestead aren't at all irate that the borough is attempting to keep out what most financially struggling communities strive to attract: a new tax-generating business.

Count Duke's bartender Lindsay Ellis, 21, among those who prefer the old trust company building remain vacant if the only adaptive reuse for it involves women sliding down a metal pole.

"If they're trying to build up Eighth Avenue, that's not the way to do it," the Point Park University student said. "I know I don't want to have to drive past a strip club every time I go to the Waterfront."

I’m sure Lindsay would much prefer to drive past rat-infested vacant buildings. Those are not only less visually-appealing than the exteriors of strip clubs (or any maintained building), but they also provide a rent-free home to some of the less desirable elements of society.

"I think [Scores] would bring a bad element in, an element we could do without here," said Joe Ducar, owner of Duke's Upper Deck Cafe, about a block from the old trust company building. "Personally, I'd rather see something else go in there."

Even though Ducar says "bad" and I say "less desirable," I don’t think he and I are talking about the same elements.

And I can appreciate the fact that Homesteaders like Ducar and Ellis would rather see a well-meaning, community-based, public-interest company take over the vacant building. Something respectable like Duke’s Upper Deck CafĂ©, I’m sure. But it’s not like businesses are beating down the doors to get into Homestead.

As I said, this is Homestead’s decision to make. I don’t this is discrimination or a free speech issue or anything like that. It’s a matter of a borough deciding what goes on within its geographic limits, and if they don’t want a strip club, then that’s their call.

No, I’m not saying it’s wrong to keep Scores out. I’m saying it’s stupid.

Really, Homestead, be honest: what else do you have going on?


Anonymous said...

The businesses at the Waterfront in Homestead do provide convenient jobs and easily accessible shopping for the people who live in that neighborhood. Maybe it has not revitalized the appearance or as you say "reinvigorate" , but it has improved the quality of life for the community. Of course these people would not want a gentleman's club in their neighborhood where their kids are growing up, would you?

Peaks and Gutters said...

I just think that the idea was that the Waterfront would lead to increased traffic through Homestead, which would result in more businesses in Homestead itself and, in the end, a revitalized community. That hasn't happened. Granted, Target and Giant Eagle have provided employment opportunities for the good people of Homestead, but that has hardly translated into any kind of renewal for the borough itself.

Let's face it: Homestead isn't exactly a glorious pastoral setting. We're not talking about putting a strip club in the middle of Squirrel Hill here. We're talking about a run-down area that, like many areas around Pittsburgh, has never recovered from the collapse of the steel industry. Homestead's answer was retail, in the form of a sprawling shopping and entertainment complex. Unfortunately, the place was built so that no one actually had to go into Homestead.