Rendering of District 15, phase 2. Courtesy of RDC Design + Build Inc.

In November, Pittsburgh joined dozens of midsize cities across the country in discovering that it wouldn’t be home to Amazon’s much-hyped HQ2. It led many to lament the disadvantages facing smaller cities in attracting cutting-edge businesses.

But many observers say broader trends are increasingly leading big tech to set up shop in smaller cities — and Pittsburgh is well positioned to reap the benefits.

Local developer and RDC Design + Build CEO John Deklewa believes that’s true, and points to the Strip District as a prime example. While a network of local tech startups has been established on Smallman Street for some time, the neighborhood is also attracting the interest of companies like Facebook, which signed on as a tenant in RDC’s recently completed District 15 office complex last October.

Last week, Deklewa and his firm announced they are doubling down, and have submitted plans to the city to begin construction on the second phase of District 15.

Speaking to NEXTpittsburgh, Deklewa said the nine-story building will be just across the street from the original District 15 and will be optimized to attract similarly high-profile tenants.

“There are a lot of trends going on in the tech industry,” says Deklewa, “and the Strip District caters to the trends.”

A rendering showing the corner of 15th and Smallman street. Courtesy of RDC Design + Build.

Among those trends is a growing need for urban spaces that have room for traditional offices, research and design of new products, along with plenty of nontraditional meeting and social spaces that big tech loves.

While real estate prices in tech enclaves have skyrocketed in the last decade, such flexible spaces are in short supply on the coast. But they’re readily available in cities like Phoenix, Austin and Pittsburgh.

Though there is much prime development space in our city right now, Deklewa says the Strip District has the added benefit of being in close proximity to both cutting-edge research institutions and some of the city’s best-known restaurants and cultural offerings.

While RDC will be stocking District 15’s phase two with perks like rooftop decks and open-air plazas, he says, “the neighborhood itself is the best amenity we could offer.”

Preliminary designs for the building were done by AE7, also headquartered in the Strip. RDC hopes to begin construction this summer, pending approval from the city.

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.