Nakama out in Garden Theatre block project | Pittsburgh City Paper

Nakama out in Garden Theatre block project

Nakama Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar is no longer part of the redevelopment of the Central North Side block home to a now-defunct adult-movie house.

Wayne Zukin, the project’s developer, confirmed Nakama’s withdrawal this afternoon in an email to City Paper.

In January 2012, the steakhouse chain with a flagship location on the South Side had signed a lease to take over the former Masonic Temple Building on West North Avenue, right next to the old Garden.

Phone messages left yesterday and today for Nakama’s owners were not returned. Nakama has satellite locations in Heinz Field, PNC Park and CONSOL Energy Center. There is also a Nakama in Long Island, N.Y.

The lease signing for Nakama’s space at the Garden project last January was marked by a press conference featuring Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. It was the first lease signed at the site since the Garden Theatre closed in 2007, and was hailed as a big step in the neighborhood’s revitalization.

Messages to Zukin were prompted after yesterday’s announcement that nonprofit arts and human-rights group City of Asylum/Pittsburgh would locate its new literary center in the three storefronts on the first floor of the Masonic Temple — the space formerly to be occupied by Nakama. But until today it was unclear publicly whether Nakama was still involved in the redevelopment project.

COAP president Henry Reese says he’d heard in November that the space might be available and contacted the developer. At the time, Reese says, COAP was preparing to resubmit plans for the center, called Alphabet City, to the city after a court ruling upheld a zoning appeal by neighbors objecting to the project.

But Reese says the West North Street location is in many ways a better fit for Alphabet City, which itself will include a small restaurant along with a bookstore and performance space. It is more centrally located and more visible to street traffic than the original location.

Other announced projects on the Garden block appear to be proceeding, including apartment units and a new restaurant in the old theater space run by the owners of Lawrenceville’s Piccolo Forno.

Barbara Talerico, president of the Allegheny City Central Association, says the loss of Nakama wouldn't hinder the redevelopment project. "Things change over time," she says. "We think that the whole block itself is really very exciting. There'll be a good mix of all the neighbors and all the visitors to the area."