The proposed renovations at 129 McKean Street on the South Shore. Image courtesy of Designstream, LLC.

In the 1870s, Joseph S. Finch established Pittsburgh’s last pre-Prohibition whiskey distillery, best-known for its Golden Wedding label. This summer, Cedarcove Capital Ventures and Mazzarini Real Estate Group will begin converting the seven-story building at 129 McKean Street into the Distillery at the South Shore — an artisan marketplace that developer Tony Mazzarini describes as “a Strip District-type venue, but under one roof.”

“The history and physical structure of the building are playing a big part in our concept,” says Eric Kraemer, president of Cedarcove. “It’s all exposed brick with large wooden timbers and rough-cut hardwood floors. It has a great classic industrial look and feel.”

The Distillery at the South Shore will include an artisan marketplace featuring food, spirits and handmade wares. Photo courtesy of Eric Kraemer, Cedarcove Capital Ventures.

The building is located just west of the Liberty Bridge.

Kraemer, Mazzarini and partner Bill Stolze plan to highlight the building’s history with black and white photos and artistic renderings of Finch’s whiskey labels. Wood, brick and copper — a nod to the whiskey stills that once filled the space — will appear throughout the building, from the artisan market to a new distillery and restaurant.

The wooden beams lend themselves particularly well to adaptive reuse, naturally dividing the space into individual bays for vendors that will offer products including coffee, baked goods, cheeses, meats and cigars. Designed by local architecture studio, Designstream, LLC, the market will also feature walkways and seating.

As part of the $6 million renovation, every other floor will be removed to create 15-foot ceilings on each level. The developers then plan to add a fifth-floor entertainment complex. Possible uses of the space include a whiskey tasting room, art gallery or concert venue. On the riverside, the rooftop space will be clad in glass to showcase the city below.

“The views will be spectacular up there,” says Kraemer.

The skyline view from the current roof at 129 McKean Street. Photo courtesy of Eric Kraemer, Cedarcove Capital Ventures.

After years of being overlooked for major development or held in limbo by promises of a casino that never arrived, the south side of the Monongahela River is on the verge of a rebirth thanks to the Distillery and other projects — totaling half a billion dollars in redevelopment — spanning the South Side and Station Square.

Mazzarini says, “Being Pittsburgh natives, we’ve watched the other shorelines of Pittsburgh develop over the years and as we looked at the South Shore we said, ‘This is the last gem close to the city that still needs to be done.’”

High Street Residential, a subsidiary of Trammell Crow Company, recently broke ground on the mixed-use Glasshouse development in the district.

“We are just beginning to see what can happen when cities start to develop previously industrial areas along their waterways into attractive, new and active uses that create a sense of place that attracts new residents and business,” says James Murray-Coleman, senior vice president of Trammell Crow.

Kraemer says that he sees the Distillery as a bridge between Glasshouse and the Highline, which began construction in July on the site of the former River Walk Corporate Centre on the South Side.

Designed by Indovina Associates Architects, the LEED-certified building will include 500,000 square feet of creative office space — the Beauty Shoppe is a new tenant — and an 800-space integral garage.

“We’re really breathing life into an area that everyone had looked at as having the essentials of a great neighborhood,” says Izzy Rudolph, president of acquisitions and development at McKnight Realty Partners. “All these developers in this district are investing in bringing it into the next phase.”

With a $110 million budget boosted by $15 million in tax credits, the group’s McKnight Property Management plans to replace Terminal Way with a public park featuring LED lighting and benches. It will utilize solar and wind power in the 868,000-square-foot complex, which was once the largest cargo warehouse between New York City and Chicago.

“Along with the green space,” says Rudolph, “we think this will be the ‘greenest’ adaptive reuse project that Pittsburgh has ever seen.”

Emily fell in love with the written word as a teenager, when she published zines and wrote for her school paper. Today, she is a freelance writer with a decade and a half of experience in non-profit communications. She enjoys cooking, reading, crafting and exploring Pittsburgh with her husband and two sons.