Collaboration possible on produce terminal in Strip District, mayor says

Redeveloping the Strip District’s produce terminal doesn’t necessarily have to be an either-or proposition, Mayor Bill Peduto says.

On the eve of a public meeting to discuss competing proposals for reusing the Strip landmark, Mr. Peduto left the door open for a possible collaboration among the developers.

“Each of the proposals has something significant and good in it for an adaptive reuse. Hopefully, there would be a way to take the best of the proposals,” he said.

“I think that [the terminal] has the potential to be much more than just housing or produce, that there’s a way that a significant historic landmark could be around for another 100 years in a mixed-use fashion.”

Mr. Peduto’s comments came in advance of a public meeting at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Heinz History Center to discuss plans to redevelop the terminal, which for decades served as the hub for local produce wholesalers. It is now mostly vacant.

The Ferchill Group of Cleveland is proposing to turn the decaying 1,533-foot-long building into 209 apartments with a produce market at one end as well as other retail. McCaffery Interests of Chicago is pitching a plan to convert the structure into residential units and live-work lofts.

A third developer, Rubino Partners, wants to make the terminal a “grand marketplace” filled with farmers, Amish vendors, merchants that specialize in closeout merchandise, and incubator space.

The three offered their plans after the Buncher Co., which leases the property from the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, gave Mr. Peduto six months to talk to others about redeveloping the building.

Buncher, which has an option to buy the terminal from the URA for $1.8 million, has its own plan to rehabilitate the structure at a cost of more than $20 million and turn it into offices and restaurant and retail space.

But it also is proposing to demolish the western third of the building to extend 17th Street to the Allegheny River as part of its adjacent $450 million Riverfront Landing residential and office development, which would be built around the terminal.

Mr. Peduto opposes the razing, which is one reason alternative reuses were sought. Instead of demolishing part of the building, the Ferchill, McCaffery and Rubino proposals would create portals to provide access to the river and to the Riverfront Landing development. The terminal’s length, one of its distinguishing features, would not be affected.

In his comments Monday, the mayor said he is not supporting any specific proposal at this point.

He said he is waiting to see the analysis and recommendation from Fourth Economy Consulting, which was hired by the URA to help evaluate the proposals.

“I think that there are some good proposals out there, but at this point I’m not favoring one over the other. I’ll wait to see what the analysis that comes back from Fourth Economy is to see what the best use for that building will be,” he said.

Fourth Economy plans to prepare a recommendation after taking public input Wednesday and hopes to have it ready for the URA’s board meeting next week, CEO Rich Overmoyer said.

He wasn’t sure about a potential collaboration among developers.

“Anything’s possible, I guess, but that’s not for us to comment on,” he said.

Melissa Ferchill, CEO of the MCM Co., a consultant to Ferchill on the project, said she is open to the idea of combining elements of Ferchill’s plan with some of the others.

But that, she said, might be easier to do with McCaffery’s plan, which also involves housing, than with Rubino’s, which is mostly retail-oriented.

Dan McCaffery, chairman and CEO of McCaffery Interests, could not be reached for comment.

A Rubino spokeswoman didn’t close the door on a possible collaboration, saying there is about “20,000 square feet on the second floor where there is flexibility in our plan and we would be open to conversation.”

Mark Belko: or 412-263-1262.

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