The Maginn Lofts could be completed as early as next fall. Photo by TH Carlisle.

One of Downtown’s last surviving 19th-century commercial warehouses soon will get new life as the Maginn Lofts condominiums, with a rooftop lounge and deck.

The Maginn Building at 915 Liberty Ave., best known as the home of Specialty Luggage until its recent closure, will have seven floors of condos, first-floor retail space and a new 9th level for the lounge and deck under a plan by its new owner, Day3Design. The group is composed of Matt Barnett and Richard Hetland and his daughter Paige Hetland.

They’ve contracted with Desmone Architects to transform the building into the Maginn Lofts. Piatt Sotheby will market the project.

Maginn Building photo via Planning Commission presentation.

“The building’s in great shape,” says Barnett, who was impressed by its foundation of cut-limestone blocks during their due-diligence tour. “It was designed by Charles Bickel, a turn-of-the-century architect who focused heavily on Romanesque architecture. He did a number of buildings in the city and that was certainly something that caught our eye early on.”

Day3Design purchased the building in July for just over $1 million from Jeff Izenson, owner of Specialty Luggage, who closed the store’s location after a liquidation sale. Built in 1891, the high-rise has housed a number of businesses, starting with MaGinn’s Wholesale Confectioner and Fruit Warehouse.

The project is “historically sensitive,” the owners acknowledge, and adding a new level atop the existing roof requires approval from the Historic Review Commission. That level will be set back 45 feet from the street facade.

“As much as possible we’re trying to maintain that late 19th-century industrial vibe that the building does so well now,” says Ryan Croyle, the project architect with Desmone.

The facade will be repainted dark green and yellow, a Victorian color scheme. Accent lighting will be added “so that at night it really pops,” Croyle says. Because the building was a factory, it remains “a pretty robust structure,” he says, but will need new stairs, and elevator and sprinkler systems.

The plan calls for 11 luxury-style lofts, with features such as exposed brick, that likely will sell from the high $300,000s to high $800,000s, Barnett says. Levels two through five will have two units each — one- and two-bedroom condos — and levels six through eight will contain larger, single condos.

The Day3Design team formed in 2017. Barnett worked in construction before and Paige Hetland is an interior architect; Richard Hetland, who owns several businesses and has a banking background, helped finance the deal. For their first Pittsburgh project, nine-tenths of the battle was finding the right building, Barnett says.

“Day3Design’s not a new-build designer,” he says. “Adaptive reuse is what we want to do — we get to resurrect this beautiful, turn-of-the-century building that others might think is too hard to do.”

The rooftop lounge and deck would be open only to residents of the building. The first floor likely will house a tech company, professional consultancy or similar tenant, Barnett says.

The plans are working their way through the regulatory process, including the City Planning Commission, and the principals have been meeting with other stakeholders such as Downtown groups. Construction could start in March 2020 and be finished within seven months.

“I think people applaud us for attempting adaptive reuse for a building that’s not known to be economically viable,” Barnett says. “As a community, how do we assign use to buildings for the next century of service? Because the alternative is blight. We want to create habitable space, and we should preserve our architectural heritage because it speaks to the past.”

Sandra Tolliver is a freelance writer, editor and public relations professional in Upper St. Clair.