The owner of PPG Place is ready to jump into Market Square's bustling restaurant scene.
As part of a strategy to upgrade the complex's retail offerings, Highwoods Properties is planning a "marquee" restaurant in Two PPG Place between Market Square and PPG Plaza.
The Raleigh, N.C., real estate investment trust also is hoping to open an upscale restaurant in the Wintergarden, the all-glass, greenhouse-like space known each year during the holidays for hosting the Spirits of Giving Around The World, gingerbread house and train exhibits.
Herky Pollock, the CBRE executive vice president who is leasing the retail space for Highwoods, said he is negotiating with a "preferred" restaurant for the Two PPG space but has yet to reach a deal. He would not name the restaurant.
"It's a strong desire to have a full-service, sit-down restaurant that has a strong bar component to jump start the redevelopment of the retail at PPG Place," he said.
The two-tier restaurant would take up about 4,600 square feet on the main level of Two PPG, running the length of the building between Market Square and the plaza, home to the ice rink and water feature. It also would occupy 4,000 to 5,000 square feet on the bottom level of Two PPG.
Highwoods plans to use a corner space in Market Square now occupied by PNC Bank to help accommodate the restaurant. PNC will be provided space elsewhere in the building.
Mr. Pollock said the restaurant would serve lunch and dinner and offer weekend entertainment. It would have a higher price point than "traditional chains such as Applebee's, Friday's and the like."
"I can tell you that the interest has been overwhelming in that location," he said.
Mr. Pollock said he hopes to have a deal completed within 30 to 45 days so the new eatery could be open by spring 2014.
At the Wintergarden, Highwoods is looking at a more upscale restaurant "that can cater to the refined diner as well as those seeking larger parties and events," Mr. Pollock said.
Since buying PPG Place for $179.4 million in September 2011, Highwoods has been toying with the idea of repurposing the space that fronts Stanwix Street. Highwoods CEO Ed Fritsch has described the Wintergarden as "15,000 square feet of prime real estate in the best part of Downtown."
Whether a new restaurant would take all of the space or part of it is "open for discussion," Mr. Pollock said. "We're flexible."
As with the Two PPG restaurant, Highwoods would like to have a tenant in place at the Wintergarden next year.
"Our goal is to have something by next spring or summer. We actually have several parties who are strongly interested. We are in discussions with all of them at this point," Mr. Pollock said.
In addition to the restaurants, Highwoods is "entertaining different facade treatments to give more impact to the retail component at PPG and become more of an integral part of Market Square," he said.
Highwoods also has been considering replacing the food court in Two PPG with a grocery. Asked if that were still under consideration, Mr. Pollock replied, "No comment."
Since the completion of a $5 million renovation in 2010, Market Square has been on a roll. In the past six years, more than 20 new restaurants have opened in the square or in the block around it, according to the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. Another three are anticipated within the next two years.
While PPG has been late in arriving at the scene, Mr. Fritsch has said that Highwoods is exploring a retail makeover for the all-glass, six-building, castle-like campus to create more energy and vitality, particularly in the section facing Market Square. It's also making $17.1 million in capital upgrades to the 5.5-acre property, which opened in phases in 1983 and 1984.
Mark Belko: email@example.com or 412-263-1262.