A rendering of the terminal building's possible future. Image courtesy of McCaffery Interests Inc.

By the fall of 2019, you might be shopping and dining in the Strip at the sprawling, newly renovated Produce Terminal on Smallman Street.

Four years after the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) bought back development rights for the five-block-long terminal building, renovations may begin in one month. The URA authorized conditional approval of a 99-year lease with McCaffery Interests at their board meeting Thursday, following a 25-day public comment period on the agreement and plans for the terminal’s revitalization. Based on the responses, more changes may be made to the agreement before the final vote at the URA’s April board meeting.

It is not yet determined what will go into the building although residential has been ruled out and the food hall is still a possibility. According to McCaffery’s website, highlights of the proposed development include a restoration of the historic facade, widening of docks to provide elevated pedestrian access to storefronts and dining, and vibrant wall murals, new sidewalks, and raised decorative crosswalks.

In addition, building cut-throughs at 17th, 18th and 20th Streets will offer pedestrian access to parking and the riverfront. The plan is for 350 parking spaces along Smallman Street and Spruce Way Interior.

Now through April 5, you can click here to voice your opinion.

One question among many up for discussion at the meeting: Will Pittsburgh’s Society for Contemporary Craft remain in the building? The arts organization moved to the Strip District 32 years ago in search of affordable rent. Long before the Strip earned its current status as a hot destination, Contemporary Craft was a dedicated fixture in the neighborhood.

A closer look at the proposed renovation. Courtesy of McCaffery Interests.

Their current lease expires at the end of this year and the URA has yet to renew it. CEO Dan McCaffery said Thursday that he does want the organization to remain at the terminal building — and at a reduced, but as yet unspecified, rent.

“They’re going to get a very good deal,” he said at Thursday night’s meeting. “But I’m also saying there will have to be a level of reasonableness on their side.”

Contemporary Craft operates a 14,000-square-foot gallery at the east end of the building.

During the board meeting last night, City Councilwoman Deborah Gross was blunt in pushing for an extension to Contemporary Craft’s lease before redevelopment begins.

“Are you going to support commercial gentrification,” she asked the URA’s board, “or are you going to protect community spaces, community market space, community nonprofit space?”

After the meeting, Janet McCall expressed relief. “We were very pleased that the URA Board vote affirmed the importance of thoughtfully incorporating Contemporary Craft into the Produce Terminal redevelopment,” she said. “As an accessible, inclusive, and diverse art center with a 32-year track record of creative engagement in the Strip, we know that we can add much value to this project. We look forward to getting our lease extension discussion underway with Mr. McCaffery and the URA as soon as possible so this important development project can move forward.

“Pittsburgh is very fortunate to have visionary civic leadership that understands the importance of balancing quality of life for residents with economic growth and job creation,” she added. 

Melissa Rayworth

Kidsburgh Editor Melissa Rayworth specializes in stories about culture, gender, design and parenting. She has written for a variety of outlets in the U.S. and Asia, and is a frequent contributor to The Associated Press. Find a selection of her work at melissarayworth.pressfolios.com.