Bakery Square developer eyes Larimer site

Could Bakery Square 2.5 be in the works?

Walnut Capital, the developer behind Bakery Square and its companion Bakery Square 2.0 in the East End, has its eye on a former Salvation Army warehouse in Larimer for a future project.

The five-story, red-brick building at the corner of Hamilton Avenue and East Liberty Boulevard is located behind Bakery Square, separated by railroad tracks and the East Busway.

Todd Reidbord, Walnut Capital president, confirmed that his firm has the 90,000-square-foot building under agreement to be purchased, with the intent of possibly using the upper floors as office space.

He sees the proposed development as a possible moderately priced alternative to Bakery Square. Walnut Capital, he added, believes there’s a “strong opportunity” in the office market “for companies interested in renting space that would be less than Bakery Square.”

Mr. Reidbord stressed, however, that plans at this point are “very premature.”

“We’ve looked at the building. We’re still evaluating our opportunities there. Nothing really has come of it. We’re just taking a look at it,” he said.

It is not known how much Walnut Capital has offered for the building. The property is owned by a company called BBB II LP, which paid $525,000 for it in November 2008. Before that, the Salvation Army bought it for $450,000 in April 2001. It is assessed at $487,800, according to the Allegheny County real estate website.

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Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance — a farmer-owned cooperative — occupies street-level space in the structure, and there are storage tenants on the upper floors. The building was once a meat packing plant.

Rich Beynon, president of Beynon & Co., the real estate firm that has been marketing the building for sale, said the property has attracted a lot of interest.

“A lot of it has to do with the success of Bakery Square and the projects happening around it. Certainly that area has transformed even quicker than we had anticipated,” he said.

He declined to say whether Walnut Capital has the building under agreement. But he noted that the property probably can fill a niche for affordable office space not available at Bakery Square or in more expensive new construction.

Mr. Reidbord said Walnut Capital sees Hamilton Avenue as an “opportunity for continued growth” in the East End as the Penn Avenue corridor fills up and with the resurgence of East Liberty.

“We think it’s a great neighborhood,” he said.

He also envisions a “natural connection” between the old warehouse and Bakery Square, adding that Walnut Capital’s goal is to make the corridor a great place to walk and to bike. It’s interested in working with the city to improve an underpass near the properties.

After converting the former Nabisco plant on Penn Avenue into Bakery Square, a mixed-use development featuring office tenants like Google and Carnegie Mellon University and trendy retailers like Free People and Anthropologie, Walnut Capital now is working on Bakery Square 2.0 across the street.

The developer broke ground on a 218,000-square-foot office building at the site in April, the first of two planned for the complex on former Reizenstein Middle School grounds.

A new wrinkle is apartments. A 171-unit building in a complex dubbed Bakery Living opened this month. Construction of a second building featuring 175 units is expected to start in January.

“Things are going fantastic,” said Gregg Perelman, Walnut Capital managing partner.

Walnut Capital also has been active in East Liberty, converting the historic Highland Building and the adjacent Wallace Building into 117 apartment units.

Mark Belko: or 412-263-1262.

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