Red Cross building for sale

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Add the offices of the American Red Cross of Southwestern Pennsylvania to the burgeoning list of Downtown buildings up for sale.

The Red Cross is preparing to hire a real estate broker to put its four-story office building on the Boulevard of the Allies on the market, spokesman Brian Knavish said Friday.

Mr. Knavish said the organization was looking for a new location either in the suburbs or elsewhere in the city that would be big enough to house its response vehicles and provide free parking for volunteers.

The current building has a small garage that is able to accommodate only eight or so response vehicles, Mr. Knavish said. Others must be housed elsewhere. Volunteers must find their own parking when they come Downtown for training or other purposes, he said.

"The business we do isn't conducive to a Downtown office building," he said, adding a possible sale has been "on our radar" for some time.

No asking price has been set as of yet. That won't be done until a real estate broker has been hired, Mr. Knavish said. The Red Cross has been at the location since 1980, when it was moved from Fourth Avenue to make way for PPG Place.

The building sits next to Point Park University, which has been gobbling up real estate Downtown for the last few years. However, spokeswoman Mary Ellen Solomon said Friday that the university wasn't interested in buying the building.

The Red Cross isn't the only one hanging a "for sale" sign these days. The four buildings that comprise Gateway Center also are up for sale, as the owner, Los Angeles-based Hertz Investment Group, seeks to capitalize on Downtown's robust real estate market.

"There are large amounts of buyers out there sitting on large amounts of cash looking for quality investments. We think it's time to go out and take advantage of that situation," said Gary Horwitz, Hertz president.

Hertz purchased the buildings in 2004 for $55 million. Mr. Horwitz would not disclose an asking price, but said the company had fielded inquiries from more than 50 potential buyers since recently listing the complex for sale.

"There's been a tremendous response," he said.

Other buildings for sale Downtown include the Regional Enterprise Tower (the former Alcoa building); the Oliver Building; and EQT Tower, once known as Dominion Tower.

Herky Pollock, an executive vice president for real estate brokerage CB Richard Ellis/Pittsburgh, said the spate of buildings up for sale reflected the strong health of the Downtown real estate market.

"Local owners are taking advantage of current occupancy rates, overall vitality and longer-term leases that have recently been signed in the central business district, which give potential investors the greatest level of stability possible," he said.

Downtown, the vacancy rate in the first quarter was 12.2 percent, one of the lowest in the Pittsburgh market, and the average lease rate for Class A office space was $23.70 a square foot, the highest in the market, according to CB Richard Ellis.

Mark Belko: or 412-263-1262.


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