Rendering courtesy of Walnut Capital.

Is the Oakland skyline ready for a new addition? Pittsburgh’s City Planning Commission will decide on Tuesday.

On Oct. 22, the Commission will hold its final vote on Walnut Capital’s Innovation Research Tower, a proposed 10-story development located at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Halket Street.

If approved, construction would begin in February with an eye toward opening in August of 2022. The North Side-based PJ Dick would serve as the contractor. Currently, the space at 3342 Fifth Avenue is occupied by several vacant buildings purchased by Walnut Capital in December of 2018, which will be demolished later this year.

Speaking with NEXTpittsburgh, Walnut Capital CEO Gregg Perelman says the majority of the 268,000 square-foot building will be devoted to flexible, light lab-style working space.

The main tenants will be research and development companies “that are partners with the universities,” says Perelman. “It’s part of the whole Innovation District in Oakland.”

Rendering courtesy of Walnut Capital.

The Innovation District, part of the region’s wider InnovatePGH initiative, builds on work that Pitt and CMU are doing to extend their research and services beyond their own Oakland campuses. Working with partners at the universities as well as with local government, the Innovation District staff provides support for tech companies already based in the Oakland area, while also working to attract new businesses.

At the ground level, the Innovation Research Tower will include 6,200 square feet of retail space. Of that total, 4,500 square feet will be devoted to community-based retail options managed by the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC).

OPDC Executive Director Wanda Wilson tells NEXTpittsburgh that the nonprofit organization will convene a panel of Oakland residents to begin a formal process for choosing tenants. The goal is to feature businesses owned by Oakland residents that provide broader services or assets for the community at large.

That selection process will take place while the building is under construction.

Rendering courtesy of Walnut Capital.

Per their agreement with Walnut Capital, the OPDC will have a 99-year lease on that retail space at a rent of $1 per year. Additionally, Walnut Capital will provide an improvement allowance for each new business at $45 per square foot.

The proposal also promises a piece of elaborate, interactive public art along the Halket Street side of the building. The overall design, provided by Strada architects, targets LEED Gold standards for sustainability.

Perelman declined to estimate the total cost of the project, saying only this: “It’s expensive.”

Stay tuned to NEXTpittsburgh for more updates after the Planning Commission’s vote next week.

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.