The same Philadelphia company working to redevelop the former Macy’s building Downtown is trying to acquire the Pittsburgh Brewing Co. in Lawrenceville. Core Realty has the brewery property under agreement, and hopes to close on it over the summer.
The announcement came during a panel discussion hosted by the Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corp., which featured some of the city’s top developers. Core executive vice president Randy Mineo, who is originally from Pittsburgh, said Core is working to buy the nine-acre property which has historic city status and has been mostly abandoned for the past five years. Core has plans for the property that include a mix of office and residential uses, a hotel and a restaurant, Mineo says.
That news was one part of the discussion during Wednesday’s forum, which featured Mineo, Ray Gastil of the Department of City Planning, Todd Reidbord of Walnut Capital, Lucas Piatt of Millcraft Investments and Herky Pollock of CBRE.
Pollock said the definition of “Downtown” has stretched beyond just the Golden Triangle to include the North Side, Strip District, parts of the South Side, and that Pittsburgh has reinvented itself without realizing it. The departure of Macy’s late last year is indicative not of the retail environment in Pittsburgh, but of trends across the country including the increasing volume of internet sales. “The large anchor department store is struggling nationwide and trying to reinvent itself,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean that retail is broken Downtown, he added, noting the great number of restaurants that have opened lately. “In my 30-year career and my 50 years of life, it’s the most vital and vibrant it’s ever been Downtown.”
Mineo, who is planning on retail for the first two floors of the former Macy’s building, along with a hotel above, thinks retail will have a resurgence downtown. He is targeting women’s stores and tech stores and fitness centers that are attractive to millennials.
Piatt said having Pittsburgh appear atop lists like Zagat’s top food cities makes the competition from outside developers a little more of a challenge for locals, but that Downtown has more promise than ever. “We’ve been involved since the days of the tumbleweeds,” Piatt joked. He added that he’s not concerned about oversaturation of restaurants, a question raised by panel moderator John Valentine, executive director of the PDCDC. “Downtown is a great place to live and be entertained. I think more is better,” Piatt said.
Gastil said moving forward, Pittsburgh’s Downtown should strive toward a mix of options. That mix is the common trait of other successful American cities. “It’s not just about high-end retail or high-end restaurants,” he said. Any combination of businesses has to include those that to appeal to students and people who work Downtown. “It needs to be a shared place that matters to everyone.”
In response to a question about options for affordable housing downtown, especially for young professionals, several developers said they were working on it, including tax diversions to jumpstart affordable housing. Mineo said they are creating smaller units that are amenity-rich at a price they can afford. Pollock again urged people to “think different” and consider areas such as the North Side for affordable housing for first-timers or last-timers. “We have to have affordable housing to support all the restaurants downtown or they will fail,” he said.