Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Growing Robotics Industry Helps Drive Development in City

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Growing Robotics Industry Helps Drive Development in City

Article excerpt

Pittsburgh's growing robotics industry is helping to drive development and the demand for space in the Strip District and other East End neighborhoods, at times pushing rents even higher than they are in the best Downtown offices.

That's the conclusion of a new report by the Jones Lang LaSalle real estate firm, which credits the robotics and tech industries with playing an influential role in the $6.1 billion in investment that has taken place in areas like Downtown, the Strip, East Liberty, Oakland, the North Shore, Lawrenceville and the South Side over the last decade.

"Activity is roaring in the Strip District and Lawrenceville, where old warehouses and factories are repurposed to cater to the tenant demand," the report stated.

"Buildings that were once home to major players in Pittsburgh's past industries are now being converted into research centers developing artificial intelligence, and vacant land is quickly becoming the focus of ground-up development."

The growth has been fueled by a variety of sources, from Uber to NASA to the Carnegie Mellon University-affiliated National Robotics Engineering Institute to Ford Motor Co., which in February committed $1 billion in funding to Argo AI, the Strip-based artificial intelligence firm helping the automaker develop a virtual driving system for self-driving cars.

"It's changing the landscape in Pittsburgh. It's influencing development. It's attracting clients and innovation to the region," said Dan Adamski, Jones Lang LaSalle managing director. "The companies doing robotics are occupying more and more space around the region. We expect that trend only to increase."

The emergence of Uber, he noted, has been one of the biggest factors in the growth.

"All of the sudden, it put Pittsburgh on the radar. So many of our clients reference back to the Uber decision. It keeps Pittsburgh on the top of the mind. Those are intangibles that really help our economy that you can't put a dollar amount to," he said.

With the growth has come a surge in rental rates. The asking price for office space at Bakery Square, the Pittsburgh home of Google, is about $40 a square foot - higher than the top asking rate Downtown, which is about $34 a square foot, the report stated.

Nonetheless, Mr. Adamski expects the current wave of office building and redevelopment in the Strip, one of the hottest markets in the region, to help keep rents reasonable. …

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