Milhaus Ventures is developing 12.75 acres of land—a single parcel in Lawrenceville on Butler Street between 39th and 40th Streets. The first phase will include 243 residential apartments, 19,000 square feet of retail and lots of public space including a pedestrian walkway leading to a new one-acre public park.

Currently the site of a large surface parking lot and several businesses, the development will connect to existing riverfront amenities such as the dog park and kayak launch under the 40th Street Bridge. A 14-foot right of way along the railroad has also been reserved for future public use, a likely riverfront trail connection.

The interior of the site will include a public walkway and plenty of outdoor seating. Courtesy Milhaus Ventures.
The interior of the site will include a public walkway and plenty of outdoor seating. Courtesy of Milhaus Ventures.

The development is a way to fill in the “missing tooth” at 40th and Butler Street at the center of Butler’s vibrant commercial corridor. “You find this huge gap in this street, this great street, and if you go either way from this site there is so much going on,” says Jourdan Woodruff, development associate at Milhaus. “The goal of this project is to bridge that gap. We want to integrate ourselves into the neighborhood.”

Indianapolis-based Milhaus Ventures has a track record developing this type of urban infill in mid-Atlantic cities but only within the last couple years has the company been looking at Pittsburgh. Woodruff moved here two years ago and has been instrumental in turning attention on this city.

“The more research we did and dug into the numbers it made sense,” says Woodruff. “When we ran the numbers for Pittsburgh we saw that between 2000 to 2012, millennial population growth was three times that of any other city we were looking at. It was off the charts in comparison to any other market.”

The company looked for sites that would be compatible with its values and found in Lawrenceville “everything that Milhaus prides itself on—local, unique, a little bit gritty with a great food and culture scene,” says Woodruff. They negotiated to purchase the site for about a year and engaged Strada, LLC to start master planning early.

39th Street is designed to have a more residential feel. Courtesy of Milhaus Ventures.
39th Street is designed to have a more residential feel. Courtesy of Milhaus Ventures.

The first phase of the project will begin at the 39th Street corner. Buildings will be three stories and have exterior facades that mimic more traditional row houses to look similar to existing residences on the street.

The architects at Strada did several studies of the historic facades that line Butler Street as inspiration for the commercial buildings, which Milhaus hopes to fill with restaurants and neighborhood-serving businesses. These buildings will remain four stories high to match the scale of the historic architecture along Butler Street.

The development will be made up of various newly constructed buildings, but the officer’s quarters, built in 1866, and an old stone wall from when the site was part of the Allegheny Arsenal, will be preserved and restored.

“We really focused on the quality of place at the sidewalk level because that is such a defining characteristic of Lawrenceville,” says architect Rob Dower. “We designed the project to be engaging from a pedestrian standpoint. The design is very stylistically varied in terms of architectural scale and urban rhythm.”

Ground will be broken on the new Lawrenceville development late this summer.

Maya Haptas has an M.A. in Historic Preservation Planning from Cornell University and is a freelance writer covering various topics from architecture and urban design to wellness and skateboarding. She is currently the assistant editor of Bigfoot Skateboarding Magazine.