Without question, land values on Pittsburghs North Shore have jumped since the resolution of the stadium issues, inviting speculators to play real estate roulette.
Restaurateur Jeffrey Joyce is among the vanguard of entrepreneurs looking to capitalize on the long-term potential of a revitalized North Shore.
He has a track record of success, with nearly 20 years of ownership of the 1902 Tavern in Pittsburghs Market Square. Still, he harbors no illusions about the challenges he faces with his year-old eatery, Firewaters North Shore Saloon and BBQ, 120 Federal St.
Joyces success at the 1902 Tavern hasnt slaked his ambition, and he knows what he has walked into. He cites two keys to Firewaters projected success:
Location. The stadium [PNC Park] is the reason I moved my investment to Federal Street, Joyce says.
Capital. Joyce is keenly aware that most start-ups fail due to undercapitalization. And clearly, Firewaters faces leaner times after baseball and football seasons end. As a cost-cutting measure, Joyce is considering a tactical retreat, shutting down Firewaters between January and April, when sales are lowest.
The time will come, however, when PNC Park and the Steeler Stadium are operational, bringing fans from roughly 100 sporting events to his doorstep. The University of Pittsburghs football team also will play at the Steelers new facility.
And although Joyce doesnt mention it, speculation persists that the Penguins could migrate from the Hill District to the North Shore, a potential boon for Firewaters in the winter.
Firewaters North Shore Saloon and BBQ keeps the casual diner in mind. Prices are lower than one finds at Joyces 1902 Tavern. The restaurant features its own line of barbeque sauces, ranging from traditional ketchup-based to a spicier, vinegar-based sauce.
Firewaters was privately financed by Joyce; neither public nor private-sector lenders underwrote the venture.
Sales to date
Joyce describes Firewaters success only as moderate and wont discuss specific figures.
Future North Shore development is Joyces greatest potential asset. Establishments close to Firewaters are bound to crop up, Joyce figures, and he foresees that nucleus becoming another South Side or Strip District.
The city learned a valuable lesson with Three Rivers Stadium, Joyce suggests: Dont convert your most valuable real estate into parking lots. PNC Park will have garages, allowing fans to be closer to North Shore businesses.
Its not difficult to see, as Joyce does, that maintaining a consistent sales volume during off seasons will be Firewaters most formidable hobgoblin until businesses and infrastructure grow up around it. As Joyce says, Its hard to stand alone.