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Station Square is ready to rock

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

By Tom Barnes, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Will Voegele, a top official of Forest City Enterprises of Cleveland, was showing off his baby yesterday -- a baby he said was 4 1/2 years in the making.

The Bessemer Court project at Station Square features new restaurants, taverns and a lighted fountain. (Martha Rial, Post-Gazette)

He led reporters on a tour of the $25 million Bessemer Court project, which features new restaurants and taverns and a lighted fountain. It forms the centerpiece of a $71 million expansion of Station Square, the 52-acre entertainment/dining/shopping development that Forest City bought in 1994 from the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

Bessemer Court, which includes the just-opened Hard Rock Cafe, overlooks the Monongahela River and faces the Golden Triangle across the river.

The project, which began last summer and won't be finished for at least a year, includes about $3 million in public funding. It will pay for improvements to the two inclines that go up Mount Washington, for construction of a riverfront trail along the length of Station Square and for a pedestrian bridge across the railroad tracks and down to the riverfront.

Bessemer Court derives its name from an old Bessemer converter, taken from a Pittsburgh-area steel mill, which has been on the site for years but was moved recently to a more central location along the river. Voegele said there soon will be regular fireworks shows by Zambelli Internationale, with fireworks shot off from the giant metal bucket itself.

Other highlights include the Hard Rock Cafe, which opened June 24 and has had long lines of people waiting to get in every night, said manager Rick Wittkopp.

Click image for larger graphic.

"So far it has exceeded our sales expectations," he added. The cafe will "officially" open July 26 with its first live performance by a new group called the Butch Walker Band, he said.

July 26 also will be Bessemer Court's public debut, said Voegele, regional development director for Forest City, which also owns Robinson Town Centre, Robinson Mall and the Westin Convention Center hotel, Downtown.

That same day will also be the first display of a 100-foot-wide water fountain that will shoot jets of water up to 60 feet into the air and be synchronized to colored lights and loud music, Las Vegas-style. The fountain was designed by Waltzing Waters of Cape Coral, Fla.

The Station Square expansion project includes the already completed addition of 100 rooms to the Sheraton Hotel, bringing it up to 400 rooms, Voegele said.

Bar Louie, a Chicago-based restaurant/bar with 11 locations around the country, will open at Station Square July 26, as will an adjacent restaurant owned by the same company, Red Star Tavern. Bar Louie will be the company's second Pittsburgh-area operation, the other one being at The Waterfront in Homestead.

Workers continue work yesterday on an archway that leads into the remodeled Bessemer Court at Station Square. (Martha Rial, Post-Gazette)

Several more entertainment venues will open at Station Square in August, including Joe's Crab Shack and the Funny Bone/Green Room, a renovated and expanded version of the Funny Bone comedy club that has until now been located within The Shops at Station Square. Also opening in August will be Jersey Mike's Subs and Dave & Andy's ice cream shop, two eateries combined in one location.

Mirage, another nightclub owned by Tom Jayson, who owns Chauncy's, Matrix and the Rock Jungle at Station Square, is due to open this fall at Station Square, as will the Crawford Grille Jazz Club, a restaurant that will feature jazz and blues of the former Crawford Grill in the Hill District.

Construction will start soon on the 140-foot-long pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks that will allow pedestrians to get down to the riverfront via an elevator and stairs.

Probably next spring, work will begin on a public marina and a floating boardwalk in the river, which will hold an entertainment venue called The Landing.

Voegele said he hopes to hear by September whether federal officials will provide $1 million for the new bridge and tower across the river. It is another part of the public investment in the expansion project.

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