By John Shumway
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — So many things are built in the name of progress and development, but sometimes, the best progress may be no development at all.
That is the view of folks who live and work near North Park, who have been sweating out a possible change.
You don’t have to look far to see new housing being developed in our area, and it looked like that was the future on the edge of North Park.
A nine iron away from the Western North Park welcome sign, people have been honing their golfing skills or working on their batting swing for a long time.
“My grandfather started the batting cages in 1952,” said John Williams, a North Park business owner.
Williams’ dad built the miniature golf across the street in the early ’60s, and over the years, the Williams family built the driving range and the par three golf course. The site of summers of family fun.
“The thought of that coming to an end was very upsetting,” Williams added.
The family that owned the land no longer lives here and was looking to sell; McCandless changed the zoning, and developers were knocking at the door with housing in mind,
They’re cramming [houses] in. The traffic is going to be crazy. I’m not looking forward to that. The park would lose its feel then,” Shaler’s Julie Gatti said.
Exactly how Susan and Jason Wolfe felt, who live nearby.
“To lose this would just be heartbreaking,” Susan said.
So, Jason, an entrepreneur who has built and sold four internet companies, reached out to the property owner to make an offer.
“I said to them, ‘I’ll keep everything the way that it is.’ And the woman, Joy Irwin, was in tears because this [was] what she wanted. Her family didn’t want all this developed,” Jason said.
The Irwins said yes, the deal was finalized on Dec. 22, and the businesses all got leases, some for the first time.
“[When] I found out, I was sitting on the porch, and I cried. I have to say that,” Williams said.
“I’m not gonna develop this land. I don’t need to develop this land. I’m not a developer. I’m not in the business of building townhouses. I’m just an entrepreneur in the City of Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh has been good to me. And so I’m trying to give back,” Wolfe said.
Jason passed on sharing the sale price but emphasized he was not in this to make a pile of money.
Susan grew up in West View and enjoyed North Park as a kid. Jason is originally from the Hershey area. He went to the Milton Hershey School, is now on the Hershey Trust board, and has been a part of the Pittsburgh Technology Council.
Among the companies he created and sold is Giftcards.com.
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