Bakery Square expansion proposed; three school sites for bid

Developers propose carrying housing, retail, office space across Penn Avenue to site of shuttered Reizenstein school

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The development group responsible for Bakery Square wants to acquire the former Reizenstein school building and replace it with a $119 million project called Bakery Square 2.0 that would include housing, retail and office space.

The proposal was included in the lone bid for the Reizenstein building, one of three city school buildings that are being offered for sale by Pittsburgh Public Schools. Another bidder said it wants to convert the former Schenley High School building into apartments and three bidders made offers for the former Ridge Avenue building on the North Side.

Bakery Square 2.0 is a partnership that includes Walnut Capital and RCG Longview. It offered to buy the site for $5.4 million, demolish the school building and replace it with a $119 million development.

The proposal calls for replacing the "functionally obsolete building" with about 20 new single-family homes and more than 70 new rental townhouses -- in the rear of the site near existing housing -- as well as about 400,000 square feet of first-class office/retail space on Penn Avenue.

Reizenstein is on Penn Avenue, across the street from the new Bakery Square, which was a project of Walnut Capital and RCG Longview. Bakery Square is the home of Google, a Spring Hill Suites Hotel and other businesses.

Todd Reidbord, president of Walnut Capital, said the proposal for Reizenstein building is very preliminary. He said there will be community meetings and "further refinements in the next few months."

"One thing we get more calls about than anything is for residential, so this project would give us the chance" to consider apartments and townhouses. He said Bakery Square's early plans included a residential component that didn't work out.

He described Reizenstein as akin to a big box store, with few windows and no value for reuse.

"We believe it's a substantial bid, and it's a very important property for us," he said.

Reizenstein, on the Shadyside-Larimer border, was long known as Reizenstein Middle School and now is home of Pittsburgh Obama 6-12, which will move to the Peabody building in East Liberty next fall.

The only bidder for the Schenley building was PMC Property Group Inc., of Philadelphia, which offered $2 million and plans to spend $35 million restoring and transforming the historic school into an apartment building.

The Schenley building, located in Oakland, is on the National Register of Historic Places and was closed in 2008.

For the Ridge Avenue building located near Community College of Allegheny County, bids came from Light of Life Ministries, $1.1 million; CCAC, $1.05 million; and School Facility Development Inc., $500,000.

Light of Life, which serves poor and homeless people, wants to relocate from East North Avenue and plans to spend $7 million on renovations.

CCAC wants to renovate the building for $5 million and use it for state-of-the art workforce education, particularly in health careers.

School Facility Development would spend $4.5 million on renovations to develop the building for Propel Northside Charter School, which opened this school year in the Columbus building leased from the school district.

In considering the bids, which were received last week, the school board will look at the proposed price as well as other factors, including the effects of the proposed use on the tax base; student enrollment and community; and the qualifications of the bidder.

The developers of Bakery Square 2.0 said they plan to improve street lights, sidewalks and bike paths along Penn Avenue.

"With the success of Bakery Square -- particularly as a hub for high technology businesses -- it is imperative that we find a way to accommodate the growth and needs of these companies/institutions," the bidder stated.

"More importantly, we need to be able to continue the development of the environment around Bakery Square for the overall betterment and continued improvement of the neighborhood."

The proposal included letters of support from the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the Pittsburgh Technology Council and Carnegie Mellon University.

For Schenley, PMC Property Group describes "market-rate, multi-family housing, with associated amenities for the benefit of the property's residents."

It notes its developments usually have a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments.

PMC will seek federal tax credits under the federal historic preservation tax incentive program.

PMC, which also has properties in Philadelphia, Connecticut and Virginia, is already in the Pittsburgh market. It purchased the former Verizon building at 201 Stanwix St. and the Penn-Garrison apartment complex, both Downtown. It also has reached a deal to buy the Regional Enterprise Tower Downtown.

Of its Ridge Avenue plan, Light of Life wrote that its relocation would result in its current buildings being available for private development in an area now under revitalization, thus leading to more taxable property.

CCAC said its plan also would help the tax base because its graduates on average earn more than high school graduates.

School Facility Development said its use won't affect the number of students enrolled at Propel Northside but said, "Having an additional high quality school option conveniently located to Northside neighborhoods will attract and hold families to the area. This will contribute to increasing property values in the neighborhoods convenient to the school."

Education writer Eleanor Chute: or 412-263-1955. Diana Nelson Jones contributed to this report.


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