Michael Blum came to Pittsburgh in 2015 while researching emerging markets. Within minutes of arriving in the city, he was captivated by Pittsburgh’s geography, architecture and culture.
By August of that year, he was under contract to buy Downtown’s historic Pitt Building.
A partner at Feenix Venture Partners, Blum is co-founder of Hippeus Capital. Along with being the Pitt Building’s owner and developer, he’s also an investor in Beauty Shoppe, the Pittsburgh area’s office space innovator.
Now, along with their locations in East Liberty, the South Side, Lawrenceville and New Kensington, Beauty Shoppe is unveiling a members-only social club in the Pitt Building called Americus Club.
Located at 213 Smithfield St., Americus Club is 12,000 square feet of elegantly decorated offices, conference rooms, common areas and gorgeous event space. Soon, a 2,600-square-foot dual concept restaurant will operate on the ground floor to provide food service to club members.
Social memberships are $250 per month billed quarterly or $2,500 billed annually, plus a $500 ignition fee, which will be waived through Dec. 31, 2019. Professional memberships range from $450 per month for a dedicated desk to $3,200 per month for an eight-person office.
“I wanted it to be higher-end, boutique office space where there was a sense of community,” Blum explains. “In my case, I moved here from Miami and didn’t know anybody. I wanted an office where I could socialize with other members and meet new people in different industries. That didn’t exist Downtown.”
Built in 1918 for the Americus Republican Club of Pittsburgh, the stately building boasts ornate trim, fluted columns and vaulted ceilings, which have all been restored. In its heyday, members could play a game of billiards or cards while enjoying cigars and a stiff cocktail at the bar. Hotel rooms and a gymnasium occupied the third floor. Steelers owner Art Rooney Sr. competed in (and won) his first boxing match there.
The Beauty Shoppe design team was influenced by that past and it shows: The aesthetics in this new space are a knockout.
Inside the former gym, sunbeams pour through two enormous skylights, which had been boarded up during World War II. Crews removed layers of drop ceiling, revealing 28 feet of space. The interior is now raw and dramatic, with bare floors and exposed wooden beams. They even preserved an old circuit panel found buried in the wall. That vintage hardware was cleaned, polished and placed under Plexiglas.
The public will be able to lease the venue for weddings and other private functions. Pop-up dinners hosted by local chefs will also take place there. Blum wants to recreate bohemian banquets like the ones captured in old Americus Club photographs.
The building’s second floor, once a maze-like cubicle farm, is now the heart of the operation. Beauty Shoppe has been managing it as a coworking space for about a year, and the Americus Club concept debuted last week.
Members will have around-the-clock access to the facility (which they can unlock with their smartphones) and its amenities. Concierge services, such as meeting planning and business travel booking, will be available. And get this: An employee will make the rounds with a bar cart, mixing up high-end cocktails in what sounds like a scene from AMC’s “Mad Men.”
“We’re upping the level of hospitality,” Blum says.