When chef Kevin Sousa last year announced plans to open a fourth restaurant in Braddock, one of the Pittsburgh area’s poorest boroughs, it was big news. Not only would the high-end destination eatery in the 1929 Couda Building give Pittsburghers one more place to enjoy Mr. Sousa’s award-winning modern cuisine, but it also would bring much-needed life to a town all but left for dead.
Then reality set in.
While various grants from the county and Heritage Community Initiatives were to raise upwards of $300,000 for renovations, the dilapidated structure at the corner of Eighth and Braddock avenues would end up needing way more resources. Too many dollars, in fact, to make the ambitious project feasible. Magarac — as the restaurant was to be named after the imaginary Croatian steelmaking folk hero — was about to be history before it even got started.
Without rich investors or bankers willing to take a chance, Mr. Sousa had to change direction this fall to keep his dream alive. First up was finding a new building that would prove cheaper, quicker and easier to build out. Second was coming up with a creative source of financing to pay for it.
With Mayor John Fetterman’s help, he’s hoping to hit on both cylinders.