Courtesy Strada Architects.

An apartment complex, a coworking space with climbing wall and an ice rink . . . no, this isn’t the opening to a weird real estate joke. Those are the three proposals for the Hunt Armory presented to Shadyside residents at a community meeting Monday night.

Developers Walnut Capital, Mosites Co. in partnership with McKnight Realty Partners, and Kratsa Properties all had different visions for how to use the massive building that occupies an entire city block in Shadyside. The three proposals were selected by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, which bought the building from the state earlier this year.

The exterior of the Hunt Armory, as imagined by Perkins-Eastman architects' design.
The exterior of the Hunt Armory, as imagined by Perkins-Eastman architects’ design.
The exterior of the Hunt Armory, as imagined by Perkins-Eastman architects’ design.

“It’s going to have an impact,” City Councilman Dan Gilman told the standing-room-only audience gathered at nearby Calvary Episcopal Church Monday night. “But we can’t say we want nothing.”

Walnut Capital, which was behind the Bakery Square developments, would convert the building into an apartment complex with more than 100 units, and create a landscaped courtyard that could be used by students at Sacred Heart Elementary School. They are working with Strada Architecture and Massaro Corp on its plan. (See top photo)

The McKnight and Mosites team would put a business incubator with coworking office space in the building. Their plan also includes a climbing wall inside the building and it would seek to close Emerson Street to most traffic, making it a pedestrian boulevard similar to Market Square. Architects for the McKnight Mosites plan are Pfaffmann + Associates.

Courtesy McKnight Realty Partners.
Courtesy Pfaffman + Associates.

McKnight owns the Heinz 57 Center and the Grant Building Downtown, and Mosites is best known for the Eastside development in East Liberty.

The third proposal, by Kratsa Properties, would be called the Hunt Armory Ice Center. It would not alter the facade or roof of the building but would house a single sheet ice skating rink, a pro shop and community rooms.

Kratsa has developed the Bladerunners ice rinks in Harmar and Bethel Park, and noted there was no comparable ice rink within the city limits.  Other former armories have been repurposed as recreation centers in Red Bank, N.J., Chicago, Brooklyn and the Bronx, according to the Kratsa group. They’re working with Perkins Eastman architects on the design.

Courtesy Perkins Eastman architects.
Courtesy Perkins Eastman architects.

What’s at stake

The 90,000-square-foot armory sits in a densely populated residential area of the city, bordered by Alder, Emerson and Walnut streets, and Carron Way. And, as Gilman pointed out, the surrounding area includes two churches, Sacred Heart Elementary School, and a school for the deaf. It’s also within walking distance of businesses on Highland Avenue.

Most of the concerns raised by audience members revolved around two major issues: noise and parking. There were also many questions about safety, given the building’s proximity to schools.

The Hunt Armory. Courtesy City of Pittsburgh.
The Hunt Armory. Courtesy City of Pittsburgh.

As part of the RFP process, developers were required to include a traffic plan, and address plans to mitigate noise during construction and operations. Developers were also required to outline plans for community access to the building.

And since the armory is on the National Register of Historic Preservation and has designation from Pittsburgh’s Historic Review Commission, any reuse or development has restrictions attached.

The Armory was home to the 28th Infantry of the Army National Guard until 2013, and the 107th Field Infantry between 1922 and 2008. Other past guests included Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, and musical acts like Duke Ellington in 1945, and Led Zeppelin in 1968.

Gilman, who led the Monday night meeting, said having the public’s input on the armory plans was crucial. “This is what community-based development is all about,” he told the audience after proposals were presented. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We need to do it right.”

Kim Lyons

Kim Lyons is an award-winning writer and editor who spends way too much time on Twitter. Her experience includes crime, features and business reporting, and she has a huge crush on Pittsburgh. She was a 2015 Kiplinger Fellow in Public Affairs Journalism at the Ohio State University, and is a founding member of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Online News Association.