Courtesy of Gensler.

As new developments crowd the Strip District, builders are increasingly looking up.

This week, the Pittsburgh-based real estate company Norrfoss unveiled its proposal for a multi-story, mixed-use office building on Smallman between 31st and 32nd streets, adjacent to the 31st St. Bridge.

Under the terms of the city’s riverfront zoning laws, passed last July, buildings overlooking our rivers can have a maximum height of 90 feet. Norrfoss’s proposal requests an exemption to build up to 123 feet for what the proposal describes as a penthouse level.

According to documents submitted to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, the proposed building will include 254,400 square feet of office space with 42,350 square feet of above ground parking.

The company is also requesting an exemption on the number of required parking spaces — 88 instead of the 156 mandated by law — in a neighborhood where parking is already an issue.

If the project wins approval for the extended height, it could portend of a new chapter of high-rise development in the traditionally low-slung Strip District.

The developer held a series of open community meetings with Strip District stakeholders over the course of 2018 discussing the proposal and is now moving to formally begin the city’s approval process. The Zoning Board of Adjustment will vote on the exemption at their next meeting on July 11.

The international architecture firm Gensler is collaborating on the design. The company’s other high-profile local projects include the Fairmount hotel, the tower at PNC Plaza and the coming modernization of Pittsburgh International Airport.

Norrfoss’s submission comes just two weeks after Rugby Realty submitted their proposal for the Brickworks at 21st and Smallman to the City Planning Commission. Like Norrfoss, the company initially requested an exemption to exceed local height restrictions from the zoning board.

While that initial proposal was rejected, the company appealed the decision to the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas, which ruled in their favor in November of 2018.

Representatives for Norrfoss and Gensler could not be reached for comment on Monday morning.

Bill O'Toole

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