Pittsburgh’s next office tower could be in the Strip District, on the site of the massive, long-vacant New Federal Cold Storage Building.

Yes, the one with the giant Wholey’s fish in lights on the side that has grinned at Pittsburghers for decades.

Wholey’s fish building. Photo by Tracy Certo.
Wholey’s fish building. Photo by Tracy Certo.

The monolithic concrete building would be demolished and replaced with a 950,000-square-foot glass office building developed by New York-based JMC Holdings.

The building, dubbed 1501 Penn Ave., will include 13 floors and 520,000 square feet of office space.

There will be room for 900 cars in the lower portion of the building and 17,000 square feet of retail at ground level. This will include a bike shop, a “cycle cafe” and a bike parking and maintenance facility.

“Since we purchased the Pennsylvanian in April 2016, we have been keenly aware of what was happening in the Strip district and other downtown fringe locations,” says Matt Cassin of JMC Holdings. “In our opinion this building, given that it is at the beginning of the Strip District but still has the Golden Triangle zoning designation, represents the best development opportunity in Pittsburgh.”

The new building will also feature conference rooms, a fitness center and a landscaped outdoor terrace overlooking the Strip.

The building will be LEED-certified, and designed by Brandon Haw Architecture of New York.

Several plans for the site — some of which planned to reuse parts of the building — have fallen through in the past.

“We are very confident,” notes Cassin. “There is demand for premium Class A office space today in Pittsburgh for both existing tenants in the market and for tenants new to the city.  Office rents are at a level that supports the development and JMC has the capital to see the project through to completion.”

JMC is hoping to find a tenant first, but it’s not necessary for demolition to begin, says Cassin.

The Strip District and Lawrenceville have been dubbed Robotics Row, and remain hot for tech companies of all kinds. Apple, Facebook, Uber and Bosch, among others, are all nearby.

No word, as yet, as to what will happen with the smiling fish sign.

“We are open to suggestions!” says Cassin.

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.