The Buhl Building, with blue and cream-colored terra-cotta tile gracing its exterior, has long been a Downtown gem. Now it could become part of Market Square's ongoing revival.
N&P Properties LLC has plans to restore the six-story building, at Fifth Avenue and Market Street, to its early-20th century grandeur and fill it with retail and office tenants.
The project also would involve partial demolition of two adjoining Market Street structures and construction of a new facade and floors that would connect to those in the Buhl Building, said Nick Nicholas, owner of Nicholas Coffee and a principal in N&P Properties.
At the Buhl Building, the developer plans to restore as much of the building's original facade as possible, including the large windows and transoms along Fifth Avenue. It also hopes to find a tile that will complement the original material that still covers much of the building, completed in 1913. The city's Historic Review Commission is expected to consider the plans next month.
N&P Properties hopes to start construction in December and have it completed in a year. Next door, the $40 million conversion of the G.C. Murphy store and other buildings into apartments, shops and fitness space is expected to be completed in mid-summer. About a block away, the new Three PNC Plaza building is set to open in phases next year.
The Buhl project also has the potential to add to the ongoing revitalization of Market Square, with its new restaurants and the Murphy's conversion. The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation is revitalizing three buildings at the edge of the square on Fifth Avenue opposite the Buhl Building.
Mr. Nicholas said N&P Properties has negotiated a letter of intent with one company to occupy the second, third and sixth floors and part of the first floor of the Buhl Building. The fourth and fifth floors are still up for grabs. It also is hoping to secure additional retailers to supplement the existing retailers on the first floor of the building. Upper floors are vacant, Mr. Nicholas said.
With the new construction on Market behind the Buhl building, each of the first five floors will total 6,000 square feet. The sixth floor will feature 3,000 square feet of office space and a patio overlooking Market Square.
Before the project can start, the developer must negotiate a final lease with the prospective office tenant, which Mr. Nicholas would not identify. Because the Buhl Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, N&P Properties intends to secure historic tax credits to help finance the project. It also is seeking a city Urban Redevelopment Authority facade grant. The project is expected to cost several million dollars.
At one point, N&P had considered apartments for the upper floors of the Buhl Building. It switched to office space when a tenant expressed interest. It also was concerned about being in competition with the Murphy's redevelopment, which will feature 46 apartments.
N&P purchased the building for $1.35 million last December.
"I've always liked that building," Mr. Nicholas said, adding the redevelopment will be a "labor of love."
N&P has granted the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation an easement on the Buhl facade, protecting it in perpetuity.
Mark Belko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1262.