Downtown Pittsburgh discount retailer plans scrapped

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Those hoping to shop at a T.J. Maxx or Marshalls in the Downtown area may have to wait.

Developer McKnight Realty Partners has lost out in a bid to bring a discount fashion retailer to the former Office Depot space on Smithfield Street.

CBRE, the city's largest commercial real estate firm, is now "soliciting offers for a new tenant to occupy that space," said Herky Pollock, the executive vice president marketing the property.

The decision comes about six weeks after McKnight appeared to be close to a deal with a tenant to occupy the 19,000 square feet available in the former Gimbels department store. McKnight owns the building.

At the time, Bill Rudolph, a McKnight principal, said he was negotiating with a "very strong retail tenant" interested in taking the space that had housed a Barnes & Noble bookstore before Office Depot moved in.

"We just weren't able to make a deal for a bunch of reasons," Mr. Rudolph said.

One retailer that appeared to be strongly considering the space was TJX Cos., the parent of discount fashion retailers T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. T.J. Maxx reportedly had been looking at the space over the past year. Mr. Pollock declined to comment on T.J. Maxx or Marshalls.

Mr. Rudolph said McKnight is now re-evaluating the type of tenant it wants, given the changes taking place in the corridor. An Embassy Suites hotel is going into the McKnight-owned Oliver Building, apartments will fill half of the former Alcoa Building near Mellon Square, and PNC Bank just moved about 700 employees into the former Lord & Taylor building about a block away. The former Saks department store building will give way to a new parking garage and retail space.

"There's so much happening in that area, we feel the mix has changed so dramatically, that we're probably looking for a different kind of tenant," Mr. Rudolph said. "More important than getting a tenant is getting the right tenant."

Mr. Pollock still expects strong interest in the space, particularly since Mayor-elect Bill Peduto wants to make Smithfield Street "a grand boulevard of Pittsburgh" filled with small shops and boutiques.

"Given the fact the new administration has earmarked Smithfield Street as the retail corridor and with all of the activity around Mellon Square, we're very comfortable that we will find a highly desirable tenant for that space," he said.

Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.


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