A three-building complex that sells uniforms could be the site of the first major redevelopment near the Consol Energy Center since the arena opened about a year ago.
A group called Blue Line Capital is planning to convert two of the buildings on Fifth Avenue into a ground-level sports bar with two floors of loft apartments, all topped off by a huge rooftop lounge.
"It would be a signature piece down in that area for Uptown," said Kevin Nord, one of the partners in the venture.
Mr. Nord is purchasing the two properties from Howard Elinoff, owner of Uniforms USA, who also would have a role in the venture. Mr. Nord also is partnering with Mark Baranowski, the owner of North Park Lounge who would operate the sports bar and the rooftop lounge.
The complex, which would be built directly across the street from Consol Energy Center, would constitute the first major non-arena related development to take place since Consol opened in August 2010.
"Obviously, from our perspective, It's a great addition to the neighborhood," said Travis Williams, the Penguins' chief operating officer. "It's exactly what we were hoping the arena would do in terms of spin-off."
The group already has talked to the Penguins and the city about the venture. It hopes to start construction in January and be ready to open next summer before the start of the hockey season.
As currently envisioned, 10 market-rate loft apartments would be built above the sports bar. The rooftop lounge would be as much as 3,500 to 4,500 square feet in size. Part of the lounge might be enclosed so it could be used almost year round.
Mr. Nord, president of Pro Towels Etc., a local promotional products company, said the roof usage would be "like nothing the city has seen."
"It would be an urban chic type of place," he said.
The group hopes to market the apartments to students from nearby Duquesne University and young professionals. It believes the market will be strong given the general demand for apartments in the Downtown area.
"I think those sort of uses would be positive for Uptown. It looks like a promising project," said Yarone Zober, chief of staff to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
Mr. Nord said the group may approach the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority for help in financing the development. He said the group has made "significant steps" in doing its due diligence on the project and in finalizing the financing.
Neither he nor Mr. Williams sees the sports bar competing with the 7,500-square-foot T.G.I Friday's restaurant that opened on Fifth at the Consol Energy Center at the end of May.
Mr. Nord said he hopes his project, coupled with T.G.I Friday's and other current and future development, will help to make the arena area a "destination."
"The more people we can get down there, the better it will be for Uptown and everyone," he said.
Development has been slow in coming to the Consol Energy Center area over the past 12 months.
A number of people looked at Mr. Elinoff's property last year but did not act. Mr. Williams said it's not unusual for it to take awhile for development to take root near a new arena.
While selling off two of his buildings for redevelopment, Mr. Elinoff will retain the third for his uniform business. He had the idea for a sports bar at the location more than a year ago. He's glad to see it coming to fruition.
"You're going to have a very exciting project. It's going to be really state of the art, very cool," he said.
Mark Belko: email@example.com or 412-263-1262.