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Release Date: Tuesday, February 16th 2016

Pittsburgh’s Reviving Center Swaps Macy’s for Mixed-Use Giant

By Joe Gose, The New York Times

PITTSBURGH — A plan to convert Pittsburgh’s 12-story landmark Macy’s department store into a one-million-square-foot mixed-used behemoth has become one of the latest votes of confidence in the decade-long resurgence of the city’s downtown.

Core Realty, based in Philadelphia, in July paid $15 million for the property just months before Macy’s closed. The building, on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Smithfield Street, dates to the late 1800s and for years was the flagship of the Kaufmann’s department store chain. It went through several expansions and renovations, including a heralded Art Deco interior makeover of the first floor in 1930.

Randy Mineo, executive vice president of Core Realty and a Pittsburgh native, envisions a mix of retailers, restaurants and entertainment spots to complement a 155-room Even Hotel and 312 luxury apartments. Named the Grand at Fifth Avenue, the estimated $100 million project will feature an open-air atrium beginning on the fifth floor and 600 parking spaces, a sparse commodity downtown.

“I’ve always looked at Pittsburgh as a hidden gem; it’s a city that has been kind of ignored,” said Mr. Mineo, who with the owner of Core Realty, Michael Samschick, began hunting for properties in the city three years ago. “But you could tell that underneath the surface, Pittsburgh was bubbling.”

Developers, corporations, educators and others have pumped about $5 billion into the city’s downtown, also called the Golden Triangle, over the last decade, according to the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

Investors have converted old office buildings into residential units, hotels and classrooms, constructed new office buildings, and built up the district’s restaurant and entertainment base, even while the state has overseen the city’s budget as a result of Pittsburgh’s near-bankruptcy early this century.

Among other projects, Millcraft Investments, a developer based in nearby Washington, Pa., which evolved from the industrialist Jack B. Piatt’s business interests, converted seven historic buildings in 2010 into Market Square Place, a $42 million project that houses a Y.M.C.A., retailers and 46 loft apartments.

And Millcraft is putting the final touches on its newly constructed $108 million Gardens at Market Square, a mixed-use development that offers a 197-room Hilton Garden Inn, office and retail space, and a garage for 330 cars.

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