Housing complexes planned for Strip District

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Known for its produce wholesalers and Penn Avenue vendors, the Strip District is fast becoming a mecca for new housing.

Oxford Development Co. is proposing the latest venture, a 299-unit apartment complex on the Allegheny riverfront between 26th and 27th streets.

The new development will feature a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units on 4 acres of land now used as a truck terminal by Pitt-Ohio Express, which is building a new facility in Harmar.

Oxford hopes to get started on the project in the spring and have the first units ready for occupancy in early 2015, said Ben Kelley, development manager.

The company will go before the city's zoning board of adjustment Dec. 19 to seek permission to construct a multi-unit residential development in an urban industrial zoning district. It also needs approval for off-site parking spaces.

"There's enormous opportunity in the Strip District for this type of product. It's in demand and it gives us the ability to invest in an area of the city that we have not previously done so," Mr. Kelley said. "The access to Downtown and the amenities available create a really good opportunity for us in our home market."

He sees young professionals and empty nesters as potential renters given nearby Strip amenities and the easy access to Downtown.

Mr. Kelley said the complex will total 233,000 square feet and stand 51/2 stories high. There will be integral parking on the first floor and designated areas for bicycles. There also will be connections to a riverfront trail.

Oxford is not the only firm planning housing in the Strip District.

Shadyside-based Schreiber Real Estate intends to build a 59-unit apartment complex at Smallman and 11th streets near the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. It will feature five floors of apartments, 61 parking spaces, an exercise room, a fire pit and barbecue area, and other amenities.

At the same time, Charles Hammel, Pitt-Ohio Express president, and his wife, Kristen, are looking to take housing to a whole different level in the neighborhood.

They are proposing to convert a warehouse at 25th and Smallman streets into 11 new "city homes" that will sell for $1 million or more.

A city home, Mr. Hammel said, is "not a traditional condo. It's not a townhouse. It's not a brownstone. It's something that's a hybrid of those."

The two- to three-story units will range in size from 3,500 square feet to nearly 7,000 square feet, and each will feature an integral two-car garage. Other amenities include custom kitchens, closets and lighting, as well as fireplaces and balconies. There also will be a common party room with a catering kitchen, a gym, and 24-hour concierge service.

Mr. Hammel hopes to start construction of 2501 Smallman this winter and have the first units ready in 2015.

He said he got the inspiration for the project from Downtown's Three PNC Plaza, where high-end condos have been selling well. While his project has yet to break ground, Mr. Hammel said interest has been strong.

He added that he wanted to create a project that was set apart from developments like the Cork Factory, the 297-unit loft apartment complex in which he has a small stake.

"There's nothing like it," he said of the new development.

Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.


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