Oxford Development Co. still in talks with possible high-rise tenants in Downtown Pittsburgh

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Another deadline will come and go without a decision by Oxford Development Co. on whether to build a 33-story skyscraper on Smithfield Street or renovate an existing building there.

Oxford initially had hoped to decide by the end of 2012 before extending the time frame to Sunday, the end of the first quarter.

While Shawn Fox, director of business development for the company, acknowledged that the firm probably won't meet that deadline either, he added that Oxford is closing in on a decision.

"It's not going to go that far into the future," he said.

Mr. Fox said Oxford still is in conversations with prospective tenants about anchoring a $238 million high-rise as well as those interested in the second option -- a $40 million renovation of the Oxford-owned, seven-story 441 Smithfield that would provide 180,000 square feet of class A office space and 20,000 square feet of retail.

"We're nearing a decision, but haven't made one yet. There are still ongoing conversations with tenants," he said.

Oxford has notified the tenants that are still in 441 Smithfield that they must be out of the building by May 31. As a result, the company will have to decide fairly soon which way to go at the site, Mr. Fox said.

If Oxford decides to build the skyscraper, the existing building would be demolished.

The company has made no secret of its desire to build an office tower at the site.

Peter Sukernek, vice president and general manager of Howard Hanna Commercial Real Estate Services, said Oxford probably will hold out as long as possible trying to land a tenant for the high-rise.

"I think they would wait as long as they possibly could and rightfully so. They've got just a gorgeous rendering of the building. It would be a great addition and an asset to Downtown. I would love to see them get someone," he said.

As for whether they're going to be able to find a tenant willing to pay high rates, most likely above market, to anchor the skyscraper, Mr. Sukernek turned philosophical.

"Real estate's like life. It's all timing. That tenant's not there today. But three weeks from now, boom, it could be there," he said.

In the past, Steve Guy, Oxford's president and CEO, said he had talked to both local and national companies, including energy-related firms, about taking space in the new tower.

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


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