The first commercial building at Riverfront Landing, the master-planned site in the Strip District, will have 18-foot ceilings on its first floor and a direct loading dock. That will prove attractive to R&D companies, says Shawn Fox, president of Bridgeville-based RDC Inc.

“We’re in the Strip District and it’s the center of automated vehicles and artificial intelligence,” he says. “For robotics users, that ceiling height and direct loading dock can create a R&D-style space on the first floor.”

He expects to break ground by the end of January on District 15, the four-story office building at the corner of 15th and Smallman Streets. His company is developing the project in a joint venture called RDC Star LLC with Orangestar Property Advisors and Investors, a development firm based near Youngstown, Ohio.

District 15, a 105,000-square-foot building on a surface lot owned by the Buncher Company, will be situated in front of the 16th Street Bridge. Designed by DLA+ Architecture & Interior Design, the building should be ready for occupancy by December.

“We’re in discussion with tenants,” says Fox, who won’t disclose which companies might be interested. “If you look at it from what we’re planning, from a usage standpoint, you’ll have over 500 people working there.”

District 15 is situated next to the 16th Street Bridge and near the trail along the Allegheny River.

A marketing brochure for District 15, prepared by CBRE, notes that a well-designed location can attract talent for a company, citing a 2017 survey by the real estate firm that found employees seek amenities, flex workspace, public transportation, a quality indoor environment and connectivity. Among its amenities, District 15 will be pet-friendly and will offer tenants discounted rates to local hotels and access to massage therapy.

“We are extremely excited about the interest in the building. It ranges from technology companies to Fortune 500 companies to suburban users that are looking to put a percentage of their employees in an area where they can recruit. Multiple suburban users want to have a presence in the Strip District closer to the universities.”

The building’s design — a curtain wall of glass and antique-style brick, with a patio beneath 15th and Smallman — will make it recognizable, Fox says. The loading area will be located just off Waterfront Place, the newly constructed street in Buncher’s 45-acre site along the Allegheny River.

In addition to being co-developer, RDC will act as general contractor for the project. District 15 will have two public plaza areas near a new section of the riverfront trail. Inside the building will be storage space for 60 bicycles, a fitness center and changing rooms on the first floor, and a fourth-floor balcony. It will have 150 surface parking spaces.

“The building will be situated to provide great views of the city skyline, the bridge and the riverfront,” says Fox. “We worked with city Planning to expand sidewalks on Smallman and on 15th Street. We really want a connection to the rest of the Strip. We see the building as an entrance to the Strip District and wanted it to be unique, but to feel at home in the Strip.”

The Riverfront Landing development occupies land between Smallman Street and the Allegheny River, stretching from 11th to 21st streets, that has been used for parking. In addition to office and retail space, Buncher has proposed more than 750 units of housing, including a 364-unit luxury apartment complex by Cleveland developer NRP Group LLC of Cleveland between 19th and 21st streets.