As the Forward Square project continues to move forward, Tom Chunchick, executive vice president for R.E. Crawford Construction, has begun helping the café look for a new location.
Although she hasn’t found the right place yet, Tango Café owner Liliana Petruy is confident the right place is out there, and that the café will reopen in a new location. Chunchick has accompanied Petruy to a couple of locations and will continue to help her until she finds the right place.
“They (Crawford Construction) are working very well with us,” she said. “We are looking for the right place. We haven’t found the right place yet. I’m confident that we will find it.”
This news is exciting to Petruy, who just weeks ago was looking at being deported back to Argentina if the café was forced to close and she could not reopen in a new location.
“They (Tango Café) informed us three or four weeks ago that they wanted to explore buying a place,” Chunchick said. “Our whole focus is to try and help them preserve their business. We have been taking them around and showing them various things to consider.”
When Chunchick first walked into the café he had the same reaction most people have. You see authentic Argentinean foods and drinks, but you don’t realize the cultural extent to the café.
“When she started explaining to me and brought out this folder of pictures — I was like oh my God,” Chunchick said.
With the help of Chunchick, Petruy is confident the café will live on.
“If they help me I have a chance,” Petruy said. “When they say they will, it’s very good news. My friends and I have very big hope. I think everything is going to be OK. It just takes time to find a place.”
Another big concern was addressed for Petruy, and that was money. She has been talking to City Council President Dough Shields and working with him to secure a loan for her business.
What was once considered to be a serious problem is now not her most pressing issue.
“First we have to find a place,” she said. “That is the most important part. There are different ways to get money, I don’t exactly know. We have been talking with (Doug) Shields to get a loan. The first thing is to find a place and then we will get the money to get it.”
As for the rest of the Forward Square project, Chunchick said that things are rolling along smoothly. It has not been finalized because the zoning issues are still being worked out with the city.
However, the issue of traffic, which was a hot topic for the community, is currently being addressed.
Crawford Construction has hired Trans Associates to collect data for the area. The data has been collected and both Trans Associates and an independent company hired by the city are currently analyzing the data.
Crawford Construction hired Trans Associates, but the city also has their own separate firm that will review the information as well, Chunchick noted. This way there are more sets of eyes looking over the same data, hoping to get the best results.
One of the key things both traffic firms will look at will be the light at the intersection of Forward and Murray. Chunchick said they will analyze that intersection and then make a decision on whether or not the light will have to be adjusted in anyway.
The site has also cleared an environmental study to assure that the area is environmentally friendly.
Because of the proximity to the gas station across the street, and the fact that the site had very old mechanical equipment running, a thorough check of the surrounding environment was done to make sure no problems would arise before, during or after construction.
“During phase 1 they analyze if there is anything there that they need to investigate to a further degree,” Chunchick said. “Machinery that needs inspecting, fluids or anything else that might be unsafe.”
American Geo Scientists came in and performed tests and then certified the dirt and water around the area. Passing this test was a very big step for the project, Chunchick said.
“Everything looks very good,” he said. “Without those items you won’t be able to get financing. Everyone is afraid of future environmental situations. Since this came out and everything was acceptable, it really opened the door for us.”
Crawford Construction is continuously in meetings with the city and local groups around Squirrel Hill to address concerns that might arise. No construction date has been set yet, however, Chunchick said that there have not been any new bumps along the road.
(Mike Zoller can be reached at email@example.com.)