by Justin Vellucci
A longtime Pittsburgher and Squirrel Hill restaurant owner is looking to neighboring Oakland to make a splash on the development scene.
Mike Wu, who opened the popular Asian noodle joint Ramen Bar on Forbes Avenue, plans to build a six-story, mixed-use development on South Craig Street, near Carnegie Mellon University. His application goes before Pittsburgh zoning officials Jan. 16.
The project would feature roughly 5,000 square feet of restaurant space on the first two floors, as well as 23 apartments and a rooftop patio for tenants above them. The site could house one or two restaurants, given that space, Wu said.
Two multi-family houses with fading wood siding now sit on the two lots at the corner of South Craig and Winthrop streets, which Wu purchased in 2014 for a combined $1.5 million.
“I think it’s a great project and it fits well — right now, when you look at it, it looks like a void,” Wu said.
Wu is proposing 11 parking spaces for the site when 16, plus bike parking, are required; a special exception to build above 60 feet in height; and variances on restaurant square footage and permitted floor area ratio, according to a proposal aired at an Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC) meeting Sept. 25.
“We had a community meeting about it. There were some concerns about parking, as there always are — but overall, there was little negative feedback,” said Wanda Wilson, executive director of OPDC.
OPDC will not oppose Wu’s application for variances, Wilson said Friday. The Bellefield Area Citizens Association (BACA) expressed concerns about parking prior to OPDC’s September meeting. Its president was unavailable last week for comment.
Wu is no stranger to Pittsburgh. He graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School and his family has lived here for more than 25 years, though Wu spent some time in San Diego, Calif. on active duty as a U.S. Marine. His family previously owned the New Dumpling and Sushi House on Murray Avenue, also in Squirrel Hill.
“We decided to do more restaurants and, once we purchased [the South Craig Street lots], I talked to an architect and it just developed into this project,” Wu said with a laugh.
That architect, Ryan Indovina, said the proposed, 69-foot tall building with large glass windows, a masonry veneer and one- and three-bedroom units would suit the busy Oakland corridor well. He noted the RAND Corp. is located just feet away in a Fifth Avenue office building that’s taller than Wu’s proposal, as is a residential condo and the home base of the Carnegie Mellon University Police Department in two other multi-story buildings.
“The site’s not being used to its best potential,” said Indovina, a principal at Indovina Associates Architects in the Strip District. “The surrounding building are large buildings, large-density. Two homes and a small retail space don’t necessarily fit into the concept of that site. [Our proposal] is something within the realm of scale of the neighboring buildings.”
The current tenant of the retail space at 214 South Craig St., KBOX Karaoke House, has agreed to vacate pending construction of the new development, Wu said.
The proposed work on South Craig Street, if it’s given the green light by the Zoning Board of Adjustment, likely won’t be Wu’s last.
“I do have some other sites in mind,” he said recently. “I just want to do this well and move on to the next.”