51 Bridge Street in Etna. Image from The AM Group.

Like many post-industrial riverside communities in western Pennsylvania, Etna has languished for a long time. But no more.

Etna has recently pioneered work in building a sustainable and resilient community, attracting new businesses to its tiny but vibrant main commercial corridor. It’s attracting the sort of destinations — such as James Beard Award-nominated chef Jamilka Borges’ Wild Child — that  draw Pittsburghers over bridges and through tunnels.

Starting Thursday, a gigantic former pipe mill built in 1902 — with a massive brick facade that looms over Etna — is undergoing a complete redevelopment to become a modern tech/flex space. 51 Bridge Street is intended for the kinds of new economy industries that have been growing quickly in Pittsburgh.

“There’s definitely a space happening in Pittsburgh for technology, robotics, AI, medical therapeutics, that’s different than normal office space,” says Tom Sabol, a partner with the New York City-based developer The AM Group, who lives in Pittsburgh.

Rendering courtesy of The AM Group.

So don’t expect the usual rows of cubicles.

“We thought that it lent itself to be a really unique, creative, great space for companies in the area,” says Sabol, who notes that the high ceilings and wide-open floors are like an indoor football field.

With large windows on all sides, lots of natural light will illuminate the 88,600-square-foot space.

51 Bridge Street. Rendering courtesy of The AM Group.

The neighborhood has become a draw, as businesses and residents look for urban connectivity and character — but are increasingly priced out of Lawrenceville across the Allegheny River.

“There’s a strong entrepreneurial spirit in the neighborhood with local restaurants, a clothing designer and shop. And as you can see, they built up a base of good businesses, says Scott Wolkowitz, also a partner with The AM Group. “We saw that and want to be a part of that.”

Adaptive reuse of an existing building is inherently a more sustainable development than something built from scratch. To boost the project’s sustainability, The AM Group is looking into a green roof for the building as well as green areas around the building for stormwater management.

“As businesses shift to prioritize employee well-being in the ‘next normal,’ we expect an increased demand for spaces that offer fresh air opportunities, an abundance of natural light and other health-centric building features,” says Jeff Adams, senior vice president with JLL, who will lead leasing efforts.

The architect for the building is Desmone, based in Lawrenceville.

The property will be part of the Triboro Ecodistrict, which (along with neighboring Millvale and Sharpsburg), is at the cutting edge of planning more sustainable communities and addressing issues such as energy usage, air quality and mobility.

“I feel like we got lucky to end up there, to be honest,” says Wolkowitz.

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.