Twenty years ago, it opened as a movie theater, a centerpiece for an ambitious, 34-acre, mixed-use live-work-play development on a formerly polluted steel mill site, renamed SouthSide Works.

Some parts of SouthSide Works were quite successful, like the office space (attracting American Eagle’s headquarters and an Amazon engineering office) and the residential units. The retail portion began to struggle a few years ago, however, and vacancies have plagued the project for years.

In March, New York-based SomeraRoad took over as the new owner SouthSide Works, revealing an ambitious plan to remake the site. The movie theater would become Box Office with 77,000 square feet of Class A, high-tech flexible office space.

SomeraRoad broke ground on Box Office last week.

Box Office at SouthSide Works. Rendering courtesy of HOK and SomeraRoad.

“We realized the highest and best use of that space is a creative office building,” says Jonathon Reeser of SomeraRoad. “We can use that same footprint that’s there today and lean on that historical cinema and marquee … and make it a beautiful steel and glass adaptive reuse of that space. I think it’ll be one of the more impressive adaptive reuse projects seen in Pittsburgh.”

New features revealed include a large central communal staircase, and a giant video wall, perfect for townhall meetings. Box Office will also feature 4,000 square feet of elevated outdoor terrace space overlooking the redesigned SouthSide Works Town Square. It’s intended as recreational or meeting space.

The design is by architecture, engineering and planning giant HOK.

Box Office at SouthSide Works. Rendering courtesy of HOK and SomeraRoad.

Down below, on street level, the developers are planning to add first-floor retail space. They can be used by upper-floor office tenants as flex workspaces, or “experiential storefronts,” notes SomeraRoad in a statement.

The company envisions 500 people working at Box Office, adding to the foot traffic on the property, and boosting its evolving retail mix (with more to be announced).

Box Office interior at SouthSide Works. Rendering courtesy of HOK and SomeraRoad.

The redesigned SouthSide Works Town Square will feature food kiosks made from repurposed shipping containers, a new stage for outdoor performances and green space for games, exercise and hanging out.

The national chain anchors, including REI, Urban Outfitters and LA Fitness, will remain.

Later this year, SomeraRoad will break ground on a riverfront project featuring 200,000 square feet of office space and 230 multi-family housing units. Overall, the company plans $37 million in capital improvements for the complex and more than $130 million in new development on the property and riverfront.

SouthSide Works is also partnering with the site’s new Resident Artist Baron Batch, who will work in a new gallery and provide input on public art throughout the site.

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.