Home Depot Decides to Include Local Pittsburgh Pizzeria in its Plans Rather than Try to Have it Condemned
In 1998, Home Depot announced plans to build an $8 million, 131,000 square foot store and garden center on the former site of an old Sears store in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh. However, a number of local small businesses would have to be displaced in order to accommodate the Home Depot and adjacent parking lot. These businesses included a bar, a dry cleaner, a nail salon, and Vento’s Pizza, a popular pizzeria that had been in the area for over 50 years.1 The Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Agency (PURA) hoped to avoid using eminent domain for the project, and promised to find suitable, nearby locations for the displaced businesses. The relocation effort was a success, except in the case of Vento’s Pizza. Vento’s objected to PURA’s plan to relocate the pizzeria from its prominent location on Highland Avenue to a less traveled side street. A bitter local controversy followed, pitting proponents of the redevelopment against a fiercely loyal pizza constituency.
Although the battle over Vento’s threatened to derail the entire project, Home Depot saw an opportunity in East Liberty to spread some community goodwill. It began looking for ways to include the pizzeria in the development. Eventually, Home Depot reached an agreement with Vento’s, whereby Home Depot would purchase the Vento’s property and build the pizzeria a store within the new development. In January 1999, Vento’s closed its doors, and its building was demolished. Soon thereafter, construction began on the new Home Depot. In February 2000, the East Liberty Home Depot opened, along with a gleaming new location for Vento’s Pizza in the parking lot.2 Perhaps Home Depot will remember this experience the next time and refrain from enlisting the government to condemn private property on its behalf.
1 Tom Barnes, “Home Depot to Oust Smaller Businesses,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Mar. 9, 1998, at A11.
2 Lawrence Walsh, “This Store’s Opening Is Simply Grand; Home Depot Plays to Big, Enthusiastic East Liberty Crowd,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 11, 2000, at B1.