The Innovation Research Tower in Oakland. Rendering courtesy of Walnut Capital.

Innovation Research Tower, Oakland. Status: construction beginning

Oakland is the nerve center of Pittsburgh’s medical and technology sectors, though it’s long dealt with the issue of being short on space. This challenge is being met by going vertical. Walnut Capital’s 280,000-square-foot Innovation Research Tower will rise 10 stories above Fifth Avenue, across from Carlow University. It will be designed to house offices and laboratory research space for tech firms, universities and hospitals. There will also be room for retail space, some of which will be dedicated to community-focused tenants managed by the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation. A group of unremarkable low-rise offices on the site has just been demolished, so construction is beginning now. It’s expected to be completed by the summer of 2022.

Bakery Refresh 2020 at Bakery Square. Rendering courtesy of Walnut Capital.

Bakery Square, East Liberty. Status: under construction

If you’re looking for one thing to symbolize the transformation that Pittsburgh is undergoing right now, Bakery Square is probably it. The former Nabisco factory is home to Google and a host of tech firms and university-related research entities. It stretches across Penn Avenue via a pedestrian sky bridge to the site of the former Reizenstein school.

On that side of Penn Avenue, the 320,000-square-foot Bakery Office Three project is scheduled to be finished by October. The site will house 1,500-plus workers for Philips Sleep and Respiratory Care, which is moving to the city from suburban Murrysville in January. The retail side is getting a facelift with Bakery Square Refresh 2020, an effort to add two stories of restaurant space, an improved indoor/outdoor atmosphere for pedestrians, and a change from its current auto-centric orientation. This is now under construction.

Recently, Pittsburgh’s first restaurant incubator, the Strip’s beloved Smallman Galley — which includes four kitchens, outdoor seating and a second-floor mezzanine overlooking a courtyard — announced they will be moving here. It’s scheduled to open in February.

A rendering showing The Vision on Fifteenth at the corner of 15th and Smallman streets. Rendering courtesy of RDC.

The Vision on Fifteenth, Strip District. Status: under construction

Self-driving cars are becoming almost as common as human-driven ones on Strip District streets. The Strip’s Robotics Row continues to act as a massive magnet for former suburban Pittsburgh offices (Bombardier, Honeywell), overseas tech firms (Bosch), fast-growing startups (Petuum, Argo AI) and Silicon Valley giants (Uber, Apple). Even bigger developments, like 3 Crossings along the river, and a 21-story office tower at the old Wholey’s cold storage building, are in the works.

To pick just one for the near future, The Vision on Fifteenth building could have a major impact. The property next door, District 15 , attracted Facebook, which occupies the entire space. Hopes are equally high for this nine-story, 260,000-square-foot building, which should better link Downtown and the Strip District by replacing the current dead zone of parking lots. The design is a big improvement on the first rather suburban-looking building, with a flexible retail/restaurant space activating the ground level. Construction is underway and never actually stopped during the pandemic.

Riviera. Rendering courtesy of NEXT Architecture.

Pittsburgh Technology Center, Oakland. Status: completed

This long, narrow stretch of flat land sandwiched between 376 and the Monongahela River was one of the first major brownfield sites redeveloped in the city — and is reaching its built-out conclusion. A large, 160,000-square-foot office building fronting the river, The Riviera is now finished and ready for leasing. The University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine and BlueSphere Bio will be a tenants. Two more buildings are planned along Second Avenue — as part of the Elmhurst Innovation Center — aimed at housing emerging robotics and advanced manufacturing companies in need of office and high-bay manufacturing space. Construction has not started yet on this project.