A vacant warehouse in the heart of the Strip District will be transformed into a unique recreation and event complex with a bicycle shop, fitness center, brewpub and café.

The two-story building at 2400 Smallman St. is owned by Chuck Hammel of Pitt Ohio, who bought it last June from J & N Sunseri Produce for $1.6 million. It’s located next to Wigle Whiskey, the Otto Milk Condominiums and the 3 Crossings development.

Real estate developer Craig Cozza will bring his Pro Bike + Run shop to the building, which is close to riverfront trails. Cozza and Hammel also will develop a fitness space and a speakeasy-style pub in the basement, says Rob Pfaffmann, the architect seeking zoning changes on behalf of the developers.

“It’s all about creating a place, not just a retail outlet. It’s an experience, being able to have a cup of coffee while shopping,” Pfaffmann says.

With stone walls, high ceilings and a 5-and-a-half-foot tall tunnel that connects to Wigle’s building, the basement “is very cool,” he says. “It’s like Batman’s cave with huge stone walls and a series of arches.”

The café in the new development will be located at the corner facing Wigle Whiskey, with a coffee and juice bar and outdoor deck. “It will be a nice complement to Wigle Whiskey,” Pfaffmann says. “We sort of joked, maybe we can pump whiskey across.”

2400 Smallman St. facing Penn Avenue. Photo courtesy of Pfaffmann + Associates.

Hammel’s Terminal Leasing, Inc. is asking the Pittsburgh Zoning Board of Adjustment to approve a variance for 33 off-site parking spaces. They would complement 34 that are available in a garage at 27th Street, in which Hammel is an investor. The warehouse also needs a special exception for limited public assembly in the RIV-IMU zoning district.

With zoning approvals, construction could begin by September, Pfaffmann says. In addition to renovating the interior of the building, the work will include exterior masonry, new windows and storefronts, an outdoor seating deck and a rooftop HVAC screen platform.

“It’s only two stories above grade that have gone through a series of alterations over the years,” Pfaffmann says. “We’re keeping it as raw as possible. A whole row of loading docks will become the storefront, with glass garage doors.”

This part of the Strip once was called Northern Liberties, he says. Over the years, the building housed a textile mill and a brewery. The Sunseri family used the warehouse largely to store potatoes and onions. When Hammel bought the building, he “didn’t want it to become condos or offices, but something of use to people in the Strip,” says Pfaffmann.

Cozza’s original Pro Bike + Run Chuck Hammel, location in Squirrel Hill will close and the Strip District complex will become his largest. He also owns a Pro Bike + Run near North Park that includes the Cadence Clubhouse, with a café, farmer’s market and juice bar.

The complex also will include a retail shop with bicycles and gear, and a bike repair shop near the rear loading docks. The second floor will become event space.