What’s old is new again. The Davis Companies, a Boston developer with Pittsburgh roots, purchased the Union Trust Building in late 2014 and has just unveiled the $100 million restoration, and it’s a stunner.
The Union Trust Building was designed by Frederick Osterling for Henry Clay Frick and opened in 1915. The 500,000- square-foot building takes up an entire city block and still contains a 400-seat theater, arcade shopping level, and dazzling 150-foot high stained glass atrium.
Over the next year, two restaurants will open on the first floor. Chef Derek Stevens, formerly of Eleven, will open Union Standard in the building this fall and seafood restaurant Eddie V’s will occupy 9,400 square feet at Grant Street and Fifth Avenue by early next year.
New amenities include the 5,000-square-foot gym designed around the building’s steel trusses, a state-of-the-art 70-seat presentation room, arcade coffee and spirits bar, and 28 pieces of original artwork curated by Charlotte Riggs of Boston Art.
Riggs chose artists who could create pieces of art based on Pittsburgh that would be visually interesting to people who would see them every day as they traveled the hallways. The artworks have hidden layers and an “impressionistic look that can live with the building,” says Riggs.
The building is currently 60% occupied with mainly high-tech firms such as Truefit, a software development business that relocated to the Union Trust Building after 15 years in Cranberry. “We were so inspired by the vision of the building. After our acquisition of Gist, a design firm downtown, we thought this was the best place to bring everyone under the same roof,” says Darrin Grove, CEO of Truefit. The company’s sleek, modern offices are often open to the public for events such as meet-ups. Truefit’s offices are located on the top floor of the building with incredible views looking out through glass over church spires.
The largest expenses of the project were also the building’s greatest challenges. A 190-car garage was added in the basement (valet parking for the building is available off William Penn Way). The terracotta roof was removed tile-by-tile, re-waterproofed and restored. Luckily the original 100-year-old molds were still in the basement so damaged tiles could be replaced.
The entire heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system had to be added to the building; prior to the restoration chilled water and HVAC were pumped in from a building across the street via a network of underground tunnels.
The Davis Companies is utilizing Federal and State Historic Tax Credits for the project. “We could have done it without the tax credits,” says Chris Lasky, vice president of development for The Davis Companies and project manager for the Union Trust Building restoration. “But we could not have done this without them,” he says, gesturing to the light fixtures and plush, colorful hallway carpeting. Restoration architecture work was provided by Elkus Manfredi Architects and architect of record was Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel.
Future plans call for a $2.2 million renovation of the 400-seat theater and the conversion of two old safe deposit box vaults into a possible martini bar or small plates restaurant.