Former Office Depot in Downtown Pittsburgh attracting interest

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Interest appears to be heating up in the former Office Depot space on Smithfield Street, Downtown, with a Massachusetts company that represents two well-known discount fashion retailers apparently in the mix.

William Rudolph, a principal in McKnight Realty Partners, said he is negotiating with a "very strong retail tenant" to take the 19,000 square feet available in the former Gimbels department store building.

Mr. Rudolph, whose company owns the property, would not disclose the possible tenant but said he should know more in a couple of weeks.

"We're negotiating with somebody right now," he said. "We have a couple of options."

One potential tenant that appears to be strongly considering the space is the TJX Companies of Framington, Mass., parent of popular discount fashion retailers T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. T.J. Maxx reportedly has been looking for space on Smithfield for the past year.

Either of the chains would help to bolster a retail corridor that has suffered setbacks with the loss of Saks Fifth Avenue department store in March 2012, the relocation of the Jos. A. Bank men's store to Fifth Avenue a couple of years ago, and the closing of the Smithfield Cafe and Office Depot.

But the street still boasts strong retailers such as a Macy's department store, albeit a downsized one; Brooks Brothers; Burlington Coat Factory; and S.W. Randall Toyes and Giftes.

When asked about a possible store on Smithfield, Brittany Welch, a T.J. Maxx spokeswoman, said, "We have not announced any plans for a Pittsburgh location." Carrie Garfield, a Marshalls spokeswoman, could not be reached for comment.

T.J. Maxx, which has suburban stores in the region, has been growing over the past few years, even through the recession. Last year, it opened a store in downtown Portland, Ore., where it converted a former Office Depot. TJX also recently opened a combined T.J. Maxx and Home Goods store in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

David Glickman, director of retail services for Newmark Grubb Knight Frank real estate firm, said either T.J. Maxx or Marshalls would be a "good fit."

"I think it would be wonderful to have more clothing options Downtown. I think either of those stores would do well," he said. "I think it would complement the existing mix and help us achieve the goal of getting a full range of clothing options Downtown."

Herb Burger, who was chairman of the former Pittsburgh Task Force, formed years ago to help revitalize the city's Fifth and Forbes corridor, called T.J. Maxx "a niche store that would fit the market comfortably."

If either fashion retailer were to take the space, the location next to Burlington and across from Brooks Brothers might create some synergy. Another discount fashion retailer, Ross Dress for Less, also had been considering the Office Depot space but it is not known whether it still has an interest.

neigh_city - businessnews

Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262. First Published October 17, 2013 8:13 PM


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