Three developers submit proposals for Strip District produce terminal

Three developers have stepped forward with plans to redevelop the Strip District’s venerable produce terminal, presumably without tearing down any part of it.

Pittsburgh's Rubino Partners, the Ferchill Group of Cleveland, and Chicago-based McCaffery Interests submitted proposals by Wednesday’s deadline to the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority to remake the Strip landmark.

The URA invited developers and other parties to offer their own plans to preserve the 1,533-foot-long warehouse after Mayor Bill Peduto secured a six-month “window of time” from the Buncher Co. on Feb. 28 to talk to others about redeveloping it.

Buncher has an option to buy the building from the URA for $1.8 million. It wants to tear down the western third of the building to clear a path to extend 17th Street to the Allegheny River and spend more than $20 million to rehab the rest of it.

Mr. Peduto, however, opposes the demolition and sought developers that would preserve the entire structure, which is deteriorating and in need of major renovations. The URA has said that one of the standards for evaluating the proposals would be the preservation of the terminal and its historical elements.

Rubino Partners, headed by Mike Rubino, a third generation Strip businessman, includes local architect Rob Pfaffmann, who has been involved in efforts to rehab the terminal in the past. Other team members are Fourth River Development, Pennsylvania Commercial and Market Ventures Inc., according to the URA.

The group’s proposal reflects the team’s “knowledge of the Strip and builds on the strength of the neighborhood,” a spokesperson said, declining further comment. In the past, the plan has been described as converting the terminal into a 21st century incubator for the food economy and unique retail shops.

A representative for the Ferchill Group could not offer any details about its proposal. Ferchill is teaming with MCM Company, another Cleveland firm.

Ferchill converted the old Heinz food processing plant on the North Side into a $72 million luxury apartment complex known as Heinz Lofts and developed two buildings — Bridgeside Point I and Bridgeside Point II — at the Pittsburgh Technology Center in South Oakland. It also developed Building 4 for Westinghouse Electric Co. in Cranberry.

McCaffery Interests is perhaps best known in the region as one of the partners in the development of the Cork Factory apartment complex in the Strip District, which currently is being sold to a Delaware firm.

Regardless of the number of developers who ended up submitting proposals, Mr. Peduto said Wednesday the city would be working with them and Fourth Economy Consulting to “put together the best plan possible” for the terminal, which now is nearly vacant after serving as a hub for produce wholesalers for decades.

While Buncher can buy the building for $1.8 million, the URA increased the asking price to at least $2.5 million in the request for proposals. It also asked each bidder to submit a $10,000 fee, $7,500 of which would be reimbursed if the proposal isn’t selected.

Mark Belko: or 412-263-1262.

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