Parks conservancy considers Eat’n Park for Schenley Plaza

By Katie Campbell

From ravine, to parking lot, to public park, Schenley Plaza has been through many… From ravine, to parking lot, to public park, Schenley Plaza has been through many transformations. An Eat’n Park hospitality restaurant might be next.

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has no timeline yet for an Eat’n Park restaurant, but the city agency has planned to add a full-service restaurant “since the conception of the plaza,” Jim Griffin, the plaza’s manager, said.

This proposal is the most recent of a series of work to develop the plaza as a park. Work began in 2004 to transform what was once a parking lot into a lawn with food kiosks, a carousel and entertainment space, according to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy website.

Though “many players over the last five years” have shown interest, the conservancy is currently working toward an agreement with Eat’n Park. The restaurant would occupy the smaller patch of grass across the street from Hillman Library — not the larger “emerald lawn” on the other side of the kiosks, Griffin said.

He said it will probably cost Eat’n Park several million dollars to build.

Just because Eat’n Park helps pay for it doesn’t mean it will look like a typical Eat’n Park. The “super-kiosk of sorts” might have “a take-out section and maybe beer and wine,” Griffin said.

Sophomore Samantha Holliday said if the restaurant has a take-out section, it would definitely draw more people to Schenley Plaza.

Griffin said he wasn’t sure about the size of the restaurant yet, but sophomore Lauren Giamo isn’t worried about losing that particular grassy area.

“People only sit there when the other part is full,” she said.

Eat’n Park was not the only company vying for the land.

Griffin said that several years ago, the conservancy almost closed the deal with Atria’s, another restaurant chain.

“For whatever reason, the deal fell apart,” Griffin said.

The conservancy continued to pursue this project because of the potential benefits. Leasing the land to kiosks allows the agency to keep up the maintenance of the plaza for such services as grass cutting, trash removal and running the carousel.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s disappointed” with how the plaza has progressed, Griffin said.

Doug Pirl, a sophomore, also liked the idea of building an Eat’n Park. He said he hopes it will be open 24 hours, like most Eat’n Parks.

“I think Oakland needs something like an Eat’n Park,” he said. “I go there (the plaza) to eat, so it wouldn’t really be any different.”

Other students, such as senior Tom Korpar, don’t regularly go to the plaza to eat. Korpar said he wouldn’t go to the new restaurant, but he does think it has the potential to draw in more people.

Griffin explained that the full-service restaurant’s ability to stay open in the winter will allow the conservancy to plan more programs and entertainment throughout the year.

No one knows for sure what the new restaurant will look like or when construction will begin, but “this has always been part of the master plan,” Griffin said.