As garage opens at former Saks, condo sales pick up speed

As garage opens at former Saks, condo sales pick up speed

By Mark Belko for Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

November 29, 2017

Nearly six years after the Saks Fifth Avenue, Downtown, closed its doors for good, Chanel has given way to Chevys at the Smithfield Street site.

With the opening of a 580-space parking garage Monday, developers Millcraft Investments and McKnight Realty Partners have all but completed the $35.5 million first phase of a redevelopment to replace the former department store.

The opening of the seven-story 350 Oliver Ave. garage clears the way for Millcraft and McKnight to begin the second phase of work — an 86-unit condominium project called Lumiere that already is generating considerable interest.

Lucas Piatt, Millcraft president, said 35 percent of the units — which start at $215,000 and go as high as $2 million for a penthouse — have been reserved. There has been interest in units of all sizes, he said.

“The lid has been blown off that one,” added Izzy Rudolph, McKnight’s vice president of development. “There’s an incredible amount of interest in condos. There’s a pent-up demand for Downtown living. This is really capturing that.”

Mr. Piatt expects construction of the nine-story condo tower to begin in April. The first units should be finished about a year later and the entire project done by late fall 2019.

“I’m not surprised by the 35 percent [reserved]. I’m surprised it happened so quickly. I don’t think we even have a banner on the building yet. We literally started taking reservations about a month ago,” Mr. Piatt said.

The development team had considered apartments and even a combination of apartments and a hotel at the site before switching to condos.

Mayor Bill Peduto demanded that residential units be built above the garage in exchange for a $7 million loan needed to finance the garage and the infrastructure to support what would be built above it.

The condos will be the first that Millcraft has built Downtown since it completed 65 units as part of the former Lazarus-Macy’s department store redevelopment on Wood Street about a decade ago.

Still to come as part of the first phase is Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian steakhouse set to open in late March. It will occupy an 11,000-square-foot street level space.

Millcraft and McKnight still are looking for a tenant to fill a 13,000-square-foot space on Fifth Avenue near the new PNC headquarters. Mr. Rudolph called it a “trophy retail space,” one of the few available in Downtown.

The development team has been eyeing some type of music, nightlife, or “eatertainment” venue for the location, although traditional retail could be in play as well, Mr. Rudolph said.

“It has to be something unique, something different, something that’s a destination,” Mr. Piatt stressed.

Although the developers are in discussions with several prospects, no deals have been reached.

Parking in the garage will be free after 5 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends through Dec. 24. Standard daily rates range from $5 for half an hour or less to $20 for four to 12 hours and $30 for more than 12 hours.

Mark Belko: or 412-263-1262.


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