Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

City Oks Talks on Strip Terminal Aims to Combine Competing Visions

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

City Oks Talks on Strip Terminal Aims to Combine Competing Visions

Article excerpt

For nearly a century the Strip District's produce terminal has served a multitude of produce wholesalers and vendors. Now it will try to accommodate the competing visions of two developers.

In the development version of splitting the baby, as Kevin Acklin called it, the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority board voted Thursday to enter into exclusive talks with two firms - McCaffery Interests and Rubino Partners - interested in redeveloping the iconic 1,533-foot-long warehouse.

The URA will take the next 90 days to see if it can merge two disparate plans into one master development. The board voted, 3-0, in favor of the proposal, with Jim Ferlo abstaining.

As part of a $30 million project, Chicago-based McCaffery is proposing to convert the terminal into 118 residential units, including 14 live-work lofts; 20,000 square feet of office space; and 35,000 square feet of retail.

Rubino of Pittsburgh is pitching a $19.4 million plan to turn the Smallman Street building into a giant marketplace featuring a farmers and food truck row on the terminal's docks and a mix of merchants on the inside, from Amish vendors to those specializing in closeout merchandise.

In lobbying for the co-developer arrangement, Mr. Acklin, URA board chairman and chief of staff to Mayor Bill Peduto, described it as "creative" and a way to keep at least part of the terminal available for public use.

"I don't think this building requires a one-size-fits-all solution," he said.

Had the board awarded exclusive negotiations solely to McCaffery, which wants to purchase the building, it likely would have excluded any possible public use, he said. Rubino is proposing to lease the space.

The co-development arrangement, Mr. Acklin added, will give the URA a chance "to see if we can't marry" two different philosophical approaches.

"I believe there's a deal here," he said.

But Mr. Ferlo, a Democratic state senator from Highland Park, objected to the approach, saying it "makes no sense to me at all" and describing it as "pandering."

He noted that a committee set up to review McCaffery and Rubino proposals and another by the Ferchill Group of Cleveland had unanimously recommended McCaffery for the redevelopment. …

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