Built in 1906, the Terminal complex of massive brick buildings on the South Side was designed as the biggest, most efficient set of warehouses between New York City and Chicago.

Renamed The Highline, the vast property has now passed a crucial point in its redevelopment, and is starting to get recognition for its transformation. It was named Best Mixed Use Development by NAIOP Pittsburgh and the Urban Land Institute, and developer McKnight Realty Partners was selected as Placemaker of the Year.

The Highline consists of 486,683 square feet of office and retail space; a distinctive, multi-level elevated park; and a growing roster of tenants, from tech firms to brewpubs. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.

“It’s a 110-year-old building that we’ve essentially turned inside out, and brought what was once a building where trains came in and everything kind of happened inside — we’re making it a very outdoor-oriented complex with two acres of green space and amenities all around the property,” says Izzy Rudolph, president of development and acquisitions for McKnight Realty Partners.

The Highline. Photo courtesy of McKnight Realty Partners.

New additions include Burgh’ers Brewing — one of Pittsburgh’s best burger spots (with locations in Lawrenceville and Zelienople) — which also brews its own beer. It will complement Pottstown, Pa.-based Sly Fox Brewing, which is opening a bar and “brew lab” to test experimental beers. Both businesses should be open in the next six weeks.

“Burgh’ers is taking the space that’s on Carson Street and The Highline, so it’s really like a front entrance, and Sly Fox is taking the front entrance from the riverfront,” says Rudolph.

Other tenants include locals de Fer Coffee & Tea, a 24-hour Anytime Fitness and Unison Bike Lab, a shop that designs custom bikes and also does repairs.

Social media has discovered The Highline, which has a surprisingly large following on Facebook and Instagram for a real estate project (albeit one with a new public park). It also had a TikTok video that got more than one million views, says Rudolph. This is not something McKnight Realty has actively pushed — but people seem to relish finding the place and telling others about it.

Park space at The Highline. Photo courtesy of McKnight Realty Partners.

“No matter where you enter from, you feel like you’re kind of discovering something,” says Rudolph. “It’s a brand-new park and a 100-year-old building.

“There’s no other place in the city where you can really start on the main thoroughfare and end on the riverfront. As much as we are a riverfront town, our riverfronts aren’t all that accessible from places of business.”

The Highline elevated park. Photo courtesy of McKnight Realty Partners.

New office tenants include Bounteous, which acquired LunaMetrics — a web analytics and digital marketing company — and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. Of course, the pandemic has paused a lot of office occupancy with about 80,000 square feet of space is still available, notes Rudolph.

“We’re probably like 25% to 30% back to normal,” says Rudolph. “Yeah, it’s picking up … By September, it will be pretty much at 80-90%, and you do see week to week, it’s really amazing. Like this week, for example, it feels ‘normal.’”

Part of the appeal is the panoply of outdoor spaces.

“We have an incredible amount of outdoor space,” says Rudolph. “Park benches and chairs and just really lounge space, so people don’t need to feel like they’re in the office the entire day. They can go and get a good breath of fresh air.”

Photo courtesy of McKnight Realty Partners.

However, the entire complex is nowhere near being finished. The other giant twin warehouse, the east building, is still to be developed. So is the smaller one, the Powerhouse building (about 15,000 square feet), facing the river.

“It’s probably about two-thirds done,” explains Rudolph. “In the last phase, it’s the east building which is 250,000 square feet. There are tenants on the ground floor and kind of spread around the building, but we’re upgrading the entire building.

“In the grand scheme of things, you’re looking at [The Highline] as one million square feet of space.”

The Urban Land Institute will honor McKnight and The Highline at its 8th Annual Placemaking Awards for Excellence on Oct. 7, which will be held at the development.

The Highline
Photo courtesy of McKnight Realty Partners.

“McKnight Realty Properties’ multi-generational commitment to the Pittsburgh region and its ambitious, yet well-executed, approach to creating and repurposing spaces made the organization a standout choice for this year’s Placemaker of the Year Award,” says Peter Quintanilla, chairman of the Urban Land Institute’s placemaking committee.

“We were especially impressed by McKnight’s persistence and resilience in completing The Highline during the challenging times of COVID-19, which halted much of the development and commercial real estate nationwide.”

Other upcoming events at The Highline include Riverlife’s party, Haute on the Highline, on Aug. 28, and a summer music series taking place on Aug. 10 (Noel Quintana & The Latin Crew along with salsa dancing), Aug. 17 (tropical rhythms from Joe Sheehan & Kinetic) and Aug. 24 (jazz group Tony Grey & Friends).

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.