Commonwealth Building Downtown for sale
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In 2007, developer David W. Bishoff was so bullish about the residential market Downtown that he announced plans to convert the 20-story Commonwealth Building into housing even as he was just starting construction of condominiums at the Carlyle next door.
Six years later, Mr. Bishoff, president of the E.V. Bishoff Co. of Columbus, Ohio, has put the Commonwealth Building on Fourth Avenue up for sale without ever having pursued the project.
E.V. Bishoff is asking $4.2 million for the building, which was built in 1906 just like the 21-story Carlyle at the corner of Fourth and Wood Street.
"We're just testing the market out," Mr. Bishoff said.
The decision to put the building up for sale, he said, was not a sign of disillusionment with the Downtown condo market or the Carlyle, which has sold only 33 of the 60 luxury units available to buyers.
Mr. Bishoff said his firm is simply preoccupied with recent property purchases in Cincinnati and in gaining a foothold in several other cities. "Putting our attention on the Commonwealth Building is difficult for us right now," he said.
While condos were all the rage Downtown six to seven years ago, many developers later switched to apartments, where the financing was easier to obtain and the demand appeared to be higher.
But Carole Clifford, an associate broker for Stonebridge Real Estate who follows the Downtown market closely, said condos -- particularly at the high end -- are making a comeback.
She said a condo at Gateway Towers is under agreement for close to $800,000 and that several units in the high-end Residences at Three PNC Plaza recently sold, including an entire floor and part of another for $2.7 million to Thomas Tull, a partner in the Steelers ownership group and executive producer of the Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises."
The 151 First Side condo building on Fort Pitt Boulevard also is doing well, she said.
"It's a strange market. There's a large rental market and then there's a high-end [condo] market," she said.
Mr. Bishoff still believes there could be a market for residential units at the Commonwealth Building, particularly with the construction of the new 33-story Tower at PNC Plaza skyscraper and the conversion of the former Lord & Taylor department store into a PNC office building.
"The for-sale product is moving quite well with mortgage rates being as low as they are and Downtown being as favorable as it is. I don't know anybody that's having a difficult time in Downtown Pittsburgh," he said.
Mr. Bishoff said there have been several sales at the Carlyle in recent months and that he expects at least a couple more in the next two to three weeks.
First Published January 29, 2013 12:00 am