The building boom in Pittsburgh continues unabated, and this could be the year that big projects advance after years of planning and preparation.
It’s not just the Strip District’s condos and apartments where developers are investing millions of dollars. Hotels and restaurants are pegged for Beechview and master-planned communities are about to take shape in Hazelwood and the Lower Hill, showing that development is now edging into neighborhoods that were largely ignored for many years. Some investment is meant to encourage robotics, high-tech and advanced manufacturing clusters, reinforcing the city’s reputation as a burgeoning tech hub.
Although court cases are delaying some notable redevelopment projects, such as the North Side’s Garden Theater block and the former Penn Plaza site in East Liberty, others are under construction or shovel-ready.
“There is no better place to be a developer right now than in Pittsburgh. If you look at the demographics of the city, we’re not growing but we’re rapidly changing,” says Daniel Berkowitz, managing partner of Atlas Development Co., which has a stake in Beechview’s Broadway Avenue business district.
From the massive Almono site in Hazelwood to a block in the Cultural District, here are some projects to watch in 2017:
A portmanteau of Pittsburgh’s three rivers, Almono’s 178 acres make it the largest undeveloped property in the city. The four foundations that purchased the brownfield in 2002 have invested $50 million to date, from various sources, and are updating a master plan for the sustainable riverfront community.
Construction of Signature Boulevard, a 1.5-mile “complete street” should finish by June, says Rebecca Flora, project director. Almono is courting private developers for the site, and building secondary roads, a geothermal well and more infrastructure.
“We really are turning a corner on the project, so there’s reason to be excited,” says Flora.
The Regional Industrial Development Corporation will start renovating the Mill 19 building, one of two remaining on the site. “We’ll take it down to the bones,” says Tim White, senior vice president of development for RIDC.
RIDC will build a multi-story building inside the shell, with labs for R&D, tech and “clean” manufacturing companies. The first phase will cost $30 million; subsequent building could push the total to $90 million, White says. The timeline depends on securing financing and tenants.
Hazelwood is “a story of opportunity,” says Kevin Acklin, Mayor Bill Peduto’s chief of staff and chairman of the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
The neighborhood’s revitalization crosses the CSX mainline edging Almono into the Second Avenue business district where the URA owns more than two dozen properties. “We don’t want this to be literally ‘one side of the tracks’ with investment,” Acklin says.
Along Second Avenue, the renovated Spahr Building soon will house Community Kitchen of Pittsburgh. La Gourmandine bakery will open a production facility and storefront across from the new Carnegie Library branch. Up the street, Dylamato’s Market opened last spring.
“We want it to be a neighborhood-serving business district,” says Sonya Tilghman with the Hazelwood Initiative, which needs to raise $35 million to renovate the closed Gladstone Middle School it acquired in 2016. The plan includes affordable housing and space for the Center of Life community organization.
“That leaves a good bit of space that could be a mix of what the community wants and what the market dictates,” Tilghman says.
LOWER HILL DISTRICT
Ten years after securing development rights to the former Civic Arena site, the Penguins appear poised to start building the first phase of 1,200 apartments planned for the 28 acres. The Pens have purchased several six-month extensions on the agreement, and an option on one parcel expires in March, says Acklin.
“I think our challenge to the Pens has been, this is a transformational site. What happens here will impact the Middle and Upper Hill District,” he says. Peduto and Councilman Daniel Lavelle have pushed the Pens to begin.
If the development falls through, “either we would develop it ourselves or go out to market for another developer. It’s definitely been a challenge, but we have made significant progress,” says Acklin.
The Sports & Exhibition Authority, which owns the land, has restored two streets and utility lines to the site. The SEA says final design work is under way on a $36 million project to cap a portion of I-579 to reconnect the Lower Hill with Downtown. That work could begin in fall. The three-acre cap would create walking and biking paths and other public amenities.
Hotels, apartments and restaurants are the buzz downtown, says Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.
A fitness-oriented Even Hotel is under construction on upper floors of the former Macy’s on Smithfield Street. Core Realty of Philadelphia also will develop 300 apartments and space for retail, restaurants and entertainment in the enormous building.
A luxury hotel and apartments are planned for the Smithfield site that housed Saks Fifth Avenue. Millcraft Investments and McKnight Realty Partners expect to complete construction in spring on the first phase of ground-level retail and seven floors of parking.
On Boulevard of the Allies, in the former Salvation Army headquarters, a boutique Distrikt Hotel is set to open in spring. Around the corner at 422 First Ave., 35 apartments are under development. And a November opening is planned for a 100-room Holiday Inn along Fort Pitt Boulevard.
“This will breathe new life into that side of town,” says Waldrup. “It will be nice to watch Mellon Square and the Grant Street corridor come back to life.”
Seven restaurants have opened or will open in Downtown, Waldrup says, including Union Standard and Eddie V’s in the Union Trust Building and Red, The Steakhouse in the U.S. Steel Tower.
Continue reading for details on developments in Beechview, Lawrenceville and more . . .