Call it industrial chic: an office building with vintage characteristics, modern amenities and spectacular views from its warehouse windows.
McCaffery Interests is marketing its 1600 Smallman project across from its Produce Terminal on the west end of Pittsburgh’s Strip District as “trophy-quality office product.”
The Chicago developer will start renovating the former industrial warehouse in spring 2018 but already is offering potential tenants tours of the four-story, red brick building with the help of JLL.
“When this is done, I don’t think there will be a building in Pittsburgh that will resemble this, at least from an office point of view,” says Juan Cameron, a McCaffery partner and senior managing director for development and acquisition opportunities.
The area has the feel of New York’s Meatpacking District, Chicago’s West Loop and Washington, D.C.’s Union Market area, he says.
Built in 1921, the building with block-long frontage will keep many of its original characteristics as it undergoes renovation to create energy-efficient, contemporary loft-style office suites with two rooftop decks. Tenants will have access to 253 spaces of covered parking, including bike storage, in an attached garage that will be built.
The street level will likely house a restaurant and retail space, unless a tenant wants to occupy the entire building, Cameron says.
“At McCaffery, we like to do first-level retail in all our projects,” he says. “We’ll look for a nice white tablecloth restaurant, but maybe the lead tenant will say, ‘I want this use for that space,’ so what we don’t want to do is commit to (a restaurant concept) and find out that somebody may want the entire building.”
McCaffery has reached out to Fortune 500, Fortune 1000 companies and a Pittsburgh law firm, among other potential tenants, Cameron says. Several companies have asked for specific proposals.
“The biggest problem is trying to meet everybody’s timing,” he says. “Everybody uses a term in Pittsburgh that’s a little different than D.C. and other markets, which is called ‘chasing inventory.’ Most tenants are looking to get in within eight to 14 months. Our timing is, once we start putting a hammer to it, so to speak, it will likely be nine to 11 months to complete it, which means we could deliver to the tenant in month seven or eight for them to commence their tenant improvements.”
The 1600 Smallman design “evokes memories of a bygone era” and its re-purposing will give a nod to Pittsburgh’s history and its unfolding future, says a marketing brochure. The building, vacant for 40 years, once housed Standard Underground Cable Company, which manufactured telegraph, telephone and electric light cables in the 1800s. Because the spools of cable were so heavy, the building’s floors are much stronger than those in most warehouses, says Cameron.
McCaffery intends to preserve the building’s distinguishing features, including rare yellow pine floors and ceilings, exposed brick walls and large windows, but will modernize the building’s mechanical systems and elevators to improve energy efficiency.
Tenants can order customized floor plans, though some may want open space, says Cameron. The office suites will have tall ceilings, brick walls and riveted steel beams. The windows offer dramatic views of the Downtown skyline, Produce Terminal and Allegheny River. Potentially, fifth and sixth floors could be added to the building, Cameron says.
The marketing team says the building will “serve as the new gateway to Pittsburgh’s beloved Strip District,” where McCaffery will also renovate the five-block-long Produce Terminal on Smallman. That building houses Contemporary Craft at the 21st Street end but otherwise is vacant.
Work on the Produce Terminal likely will proceed faster than 1600 Smallman, says Cameron, because it’s a single-level building and won’t require new elevators.
“The Produce Terminal is a nine-month program to the point where we can deliver to tenants, and 1600 may be more like 11 months,” he says. “In a perfect world, you’d love to do them both at the same time. We haven’t closed on either one; we’re just getting our ducks in line and completing final negotiations with the city, but it’s imminent.”
City officials have put forth a plan to redo Smallman Street to complement the projects. Once renovated, the Produce Terminal and 1600 Smallman will augment residential development around the heart of the Strip, says Cameron.
“It’ll be class A warehouse office space,” he says of 1600 Smallman. “It’s very hard to see the vision right now. … I think you’ll see in Produce, at least in the retail (space), a strong local and regional feel to it. We are exploring opportunities with many groups and fielding interest, but nothing’s firm. We’re working on it.”
McCaffery developed Lot 24 and The Cork Factory in the Strip, and manages The Yards at 3 Crossings for Oxford Development Company. McCaffery will also manage Oxford’s Coda on Centre, apartments at the crossroads of East Liberty and Shadyside, when the building opens in spring 2018.
“When we did Cork Factory, we attempted to get a market in there — we brought in Marty’s Market and it may have been just a little too early for them to make a go of it,” Cameron says. “That was 10 years ago. Now there’s been a significant swell of residential. The Strip needs a real market.”