Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Union Trust Building Sold the Davis Companies Acquires Downtown Landmark for $14 Million

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Union Trust Building Sold the Davis Companies Acquires Downtown Landmark for $14 Million

Article excerpt

Jonathan Davis grew up in Squirrel Hill, graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School, and now, 44 years later, is the proud owner of a Downtown landmark.

Mr. Davis is CEO and founder of The Davis Companies, a Boston- based real estate investment and development firm that purchased the Union Trust Building for $14 million at a sheriff sale Monday, outbidding lender SA Challenger.

"Our primary motivation was economic. The sentimental motivations are sort of icing on the cake," Mr. Davis said hours after his company gained control over the property, built nearly a century ago by industrialist Henry Clay Frick.

While The Davis Companies owns and manages properties in 12 states, mostly in the Northeast, the Union Trust purchase will be its first in Pittsburgh. It has acquired a building that has fallen on hard times in recent years. It is nearly two-thirds empty and in dire need of upgrades.

But the building's woes did not scare off Mr. Davis, who said his company specializes in buying high-quality buildings that have fallen into financial distress. It had been looking to get into the Pittsburgh market for some time and saw the Union Trust Building as the perfect opening.

He described the ornate building with marble floors and terra- cotta walls as a "large, architecturally significant, very well- located property desperately in need of a new vision ... in a great city that's undergoing maybe its third or fourth renaissance."

"I really felt this was the right time to strike," he said.

Mr. Davis and his company will have their work cut out for them.

The 11-story, 517,376-square-foot building is only 39 percent leased, mainly by Siemens Corp. Former owner 501 Grant Street Partners stated in a bankruptcy filing last year that the property was "in a state of disrepair" with "significantly below market leasing rates resulting in a lack of rental revenue." One prospective owner had planned to spend $8.2 million to upgrade elevators, install a chilled water plant and make other improvements.

Mr. Davis said his company is prepared to make a "substantial capital investment" in the structure, but isn't sure exactly how much yet. …

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