Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Former Macy's/kaufmann's Store to Transform into Futuristic Apartments

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Former Macy's/kaufmann's Store to Transform into Futuristic Apartments

Article excerpt

From the grand old dame of department stores to the Jetsons - that's what a Philadelphia developer is cooking up at the former Macy's/Kaufmann's building in Downtown.

Core Realty is teaming with Amazon and its Alexa technology to offer what it is calling a fully integrated, voice command operating system for the 311 apartments it has under construction at the former department store at Fifth Avenue and Smithfield Street.

With a short command, residents will be able to brew coffee, lower the shades, turn on the TV, adjust the temperature, or make reservations for the rooftop tennis courts - all without getting out of bed.

Michael Samschick, Core's president and CEO, said the system is a first for Pittsburgh and one of the first in the country as a whole. It takes the one-time shopping mecca from the "Flintstones to the Jetsons," he mused.

"If we could get Uber to fly the cars, we truly would be the Jetsons," he said.

During a tour Wednesday, the technology, which includes a Savant automation system, was on full display in a model unit on the ninth floor that once was the domain of books, restaurants, and various other retail over the department store's life.

"Alexa, turn on open shades," a worker ordered.

"OK," the computer voice replied, as the shades to the one-bedroom apartment started to rise.

"It does speak Yinzer," Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto joked later during a ribbon cutting at the building.

The Amazon partnership is just one aspect of a high-tech complex that includes an iPad in every unit, built-in flat-screen TVs, touch controls to turn on the mirror light in the bathroom, keyless entries, and other cutting-edge features.

You might say it's a Santaland of high-tech goodies. It's a far cry from the wooden elevators that once hauled customers to salons on the top floors.

"It's beyond cool. It's beyond exciting," Mr. Samschick said.

The goal, he said, was to provide a superior product but at the same price point as other units Downtown. Monthly rents for one-bedroom units averaging around 750 square feet will start at about $1,200. Kaufmann's Grand on Fifth Avenue, as the development is known, also will offer studios and two-bedroom units.

Even with the sci-fi feel, Core isn't neglecting the old department store's roots. It is restoring some 1,500 of the building's original windows dating to the 1800s, many of which had been covered over for years before they were rediscovered during the construction.

Some measure eight feet by 10 feet. On the fifth floor, a wall of old windows offers views of the Fifth and Smithfield corner - right above the famous Kaufmann's clock that served as a gathering spot for generations of Pittsburghers.

"We felt like we got pretty lucky," Mr. Samschick said. …

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