Strip mall heading toward a crossroads of change in Peters

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Craig Totino and his partners at Collaborative Ventures LLC knew what they were getting in March, when they bought the 6,000-square-foot strip center at the intersection of East McMurray and Washington roads for $1.8 million.


“It’s a great location,” said Totino, whose South Hills development company had developed the PNC bank building at the intersection of West McMurray and Washington roads, across from the strip center. “We always focused on properties in A-type real estate markets like Peters (Township).”


Totino’s company is now in the process of renovating the center – called Donaldsons Square. Collaborative Ventures has hired Indovina Associates Architects of Shadyside to help give the property, which dates to the 1960s, a facelift.


The strip center used to house the Savvy Fox, a consignment shop, an insurance company and a tanning salon.


“We are taking an underutilized property and updating it,” said Rob Indovina, a firm principal and the architect for the Donaldsons Square project. “We are keeping the existing brick masonry and trying to give it a more contemporary look.”


Part of the $715,000 renovation, which should be completed no later than July, Totino said, includes giving the center a new and higher roof. Donaldsons Square’s new roof is designed in such a way that not only will the ceilings in the center’s three tenant spaces be higher, but it will cover the building’s HVAC system, Indovina said.


The general contractor for the project is D.B. Phillips & Co. of O’Hara Township.


“A lot of tenants these days want taller ceilings,” Totino said. “That is why we took the roof off the building.”


In addition to a new roof, Indovina said the “new” Donaldsons Square will have more glass and be landscaped with trees, shrubs and river rocks. Part of the shopping center’s new look will be reconfigured entrances and exits, a change that was necessary to alleviate some of the traffic congestion on heavily traveled Washington Road (Route 19).


Two curb cuts on Washington Road will be kept, according to Peters Township Planning Commission records. But two of the curb cuts on East McMurray Road to the 1.43-acre site will be closed, in an attempt to ease traffic congestion. A Walgreen’s sits across from Donaldson’s Square on East McMurray Road.


“We’re trying to focus the traffic further away (from Route 19),” Totino said.


The remodeled Donaldsons Square will have three tenants. Great Clips, a Minneapolis-based chain of hair salons with numerous locations in the Greater Pittsburgh area, will occupy the middle space and be flanked by Noodles & Co. and Einstein Bros.


Noodles & Co., a fast-casual restaurant chain based in Broomfield, Colo., will have just over 2,000 square feet. It has locations in Wexford, Oakland and Cranberry Township, and offers international and American noodle dishes, sandwiches, pastas, salads and soup.


Einstein Bros. is a suburban Denver bagel and coffee chain with several locations throughout the Pittsburgh area. Part of the renovation of Donaldsons Square will involve adding a drive-through window for Einstein Bros., which will occupy a little more than 2,000 square feet.


All three businesses, which still have to build out their own spaces, could be open by the fall, Totino said.


While he has his hands full with Donaldsons Square, Totino said he is always on the lookout for more projects in the South Hills, especially in the Peters Township area.


“Peters Township officials have been great to work with all the way through this process,” he said. “Me and my three partners all grew up in the South Hills. It is a great area.”


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