Editorial: New restaurant must leave Schenley Plaza feeling green

By Staff Editorial

Pitt students and members of the Oakland community could have a new restaurant to choose from… Pitt students and members of the Oakland community could have a new restaurant to choose from in the future, but it would be constructed in a prominent location: Schenley Plaza.

The Eat’n Park Hospitality group will potentially build a restaurant in Schenley Plaza, although the timeframe has yet to be finalized. Fortunately, the restaurant is supposed to be located on the smaller plot of grass across from the Hillman Library — the main plot, often sprinkled with sunbathing students in the warmer months, should be left undisturbed.

Pitt’s campus is largely considered an urban campus. But there are a few patches of green on the campus and in the surrounding area to provide a campus-y feeling amid traffic-stricken roads and rows of buildings. Save the planted trees speckling the area, there isn’t much green to go around: The lawn outside Soldiers and Sailors and the lawns surrounding the Cathedral and Schenley Plaza comprise the only semi-spacious nearby sites. While the potential restaurant would cover up the smaller of the two lawns in Schenley Plaza, preservation of the larger, “emerald lawn” is key.

Such a new restaurant could bring in more business to Oakland — or keep it from leaving — and will surely attract more people to the plaza. Hopefully, though, the bustle of the restaurant — especially if the project includes a takeout section — won’t disrupt the laidback character of the plaza as a place for students to relax. Schenley Plaza is a mere five acres, so it’s possible it could get quite crowded. Although students can hike over to Schenley Park or Flagstiff Hill for an escape from the city surrounding, the plaza provides a close, convenient and green hangout spot.

Still, considering the food, Pitt is hardly a school stuck in some desolate, countryside where students have to swallow whatever school dining facilities cook up. The surrounding area provides plenty of options, and adding this restaurant won’t really fill any cuisine niche as far as type of food offered. However, if it’s open 24 hours — as is customary of Eat’n Park restaurants — it’ll provide students an alternative to late-night McDonald’s runs.

Schenley Plaza used to be parking lot, — perhaps some commuter students could appreciate its former state given the perpetual parking woes in Oakland — and the transformation from parking lot to green space even garnered an international environmental award in 2009. Bringing businesses to the plaza provides an important benefit in that it helps fund maintenance services at the plaza such as grass cutting, trash collection, and operation of the carousel. It’s come a long way since being a dull parking lot, but again, whatever’s built shouldn’t replace the plaza’s character as a park.

Even though Eat’n Park plans to fund the restaurant, it might not look like the same as typical Eat’n Park restaurants: Jim Griffin, manager of Schenley Plaza, described the potential restaurant as a “super-kiosk of sorts.” We just hope they’ll still have smiley cookies.