Terminal building recast for ‘creative class’

Terminal building recast for ‘creative class’
Tim Schooley
Pittsburgh Business Times

If it were located within the confines of the Central Business District, River Walk Corporate Centre, the historic terminal building on the South Side, would rank among the city’s top five office buildings based on square footage.

The main building at the four-structure, 1900-era multimodal warehouse facility once owned by George Westinghouse measures about 800,000 square feet.

Its scale, historic look, “brick-and-beam” appeal and presence just beyond downtown are what appealed to McKnight Realty Partners, which bought the property with the expectation of spending tens of millions of dollars to upgrade it into an office address — much like one of its other notable properties, Heinz 57 Center.

“We’re looking at this as being the go-to space for the creative class in Pittsburgh,” said Izzy Rudolph, director of development and acquisitions for McKnight. “Tenants don’t want to be in a vanilla box in the middle of no man’s land.”

With renderings of the upgrades featuring a riverfront building with a green roof, solar arrays, wind turbines and a new pedestrian boulevard leading to a deck that overlooks the Monongahela River, McKnight proposes to rebrand its redevelopment as the Highline, seeking to reposition the property’s location in what is now a gritty industrial block on the South Side into a new urban destination.

Until now, the property has served as something of a hybrid, with industrial users occupying space in the base of the building, while a mix of offices operate above.

But with its biggest tenant, Paper Products Co., set to move to a new location, McKnight plans to turn the lower floors into parking for nearly 700 cars while refurbishing the upper-floor office space.

As of now, not much more than 30 percent of the building’s space is soon to be occupied; however, Rudolph notes that his company’s office space elsewhere is all largely full and downtown itself is pretty maxed out.

Having closed on the building in recent weeks, McKnight is conscious of the trend of office development on the urban fringe just beyond Pittsburgh’s downtown core.

Think of McKnight’s strategy to upgrade River Walk Corporate Centre as a counterpart to Faros Property’s redevelopment of 1.2 million-square-foot Allegheny Center into the refashioned Nova Place on the North Side and Oxford Development Co.’s 3 Crossings mixed-use development in the Strip District.

McKnight’s investment follows a trend noted in the 2016 State of Downtown Report by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, in which far more development investment is occurring just beyond the borders of the Central Business District than within it.

With Highline, for which the company is seeking a $10 million grant to upgrade the neighboring trails and other public spaces, McKnight can offer 60,000-square-foot floors with an historic flavor, and often with views of downtown.

“There’s just not this type of space in the market today,” Rudolph said.

Tim Schooley covers retail, real estate, construction, hospitality, arts and entertainment, and government. Contact him at tschooley@bizjournals.com or 412-208-3826.

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