Pittsburgh URA approves Oakland land deal, extension on South Side apartments

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A Downtown developer got exclusive rights Thursday to try to complete a deal to erect a new office building at Pittsburgh Technology Center in Oakland, as well as a four-month extension on the purchase of land for a proposed apartment complex on the South Side.

Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority board members voted to enter into 90 days of exclusive negotiations with the Oxford Development Co. for the sale of a 1.5-acre parcel of land along Technology Drive.

Oxford is proposing to build a 45,000- to 65,000-square-foot office building at the riverfront site. Shawn Fox, Oxford's director of business development and marketing, said the company is looking at multiple tenants for the building, but also is open to a single user.

It hopes to build off the success of the center, geared toward high technology and professional services companies. "We're seeing a lot of demand in the market, specifically that location," Mr. Fox said.

Across the Monongahela River at the SouthSide Works complex, Oxford got a four-month extension from the URA to purchase the land for a proposed apartment building.

Mr. Fox said the developer needed more time to finalize its plans. Oxford is scaling back the scope of the project, from an eight-story, 175-unit building to a five-story, 115-unit structure. The larger building, he said, wasn't feasible in terms of cost. The company plans to break ground this spring.

After developing two hotels and several government office buildings outside the region in recent years, Oxford is again turning its attention to Pittsburgh, Mr. Fox said.

"We like where the office space is going in Pittsburgh. The multifamily market is doing very, very well in terms of rent growth. So we like putting our capital in our hometown," he said.

Still up in the air is whether Oxford will rehab its existing office building at 441 Smithfield St., Downtown, or erect a new high-rise.

Also Thursday, the URA board, after a rebid, approved a $9 million contract with Gulisek Construction LLC for work related to the East Liberty Transit Center project. That work includes construction of a pedestrian bridge over the East Busway, new station platforms and roadway, canopies and walkways. To meet the budget, the URA had to shorten the platforms, scale back on landscaping, and use a more standard design for the shelters. The original bids topped $13 million.

In addition, state Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Lincoln-Lemington, took a seat on the URA board, appointed by Mayor Bill Peduto to replace Jim Kuntz. Mr. Gainey's district includes struggling East End communities like Larimer and Homewood, ones Mr. Peduto has vowed to help.

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

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