URA, city parking board will shape former Saks site
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A plan to convert the former Saks Fifth Avenue department store on Smithfield Street into a public parking garage is a step closer to reality.
The Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority board is expected to vote Thursday on a proposed joint venture with the city's parking authority over the construction of the garage.
Yarone Zober, URA board chairman and chief of staff to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, said the agreement would outline the roles and responsibilities of each of the agencies in developing the garage and accompanying retail space and air rights.
The URA moved last month to buy the vacant building for $4 million with the intent to demolish it to clear the way for the garage and street-level retail. Under the deal, the URA retained the right to purchase the property for six months, with the option to extend it by another three months.
Mr. Zober said the agency has not yet made a final decision whether to complete the purchase. The building has been empty since Saks closed on March 17.
"It's certainly our intention to proceed, but it's going to be based on the economics of the deal overall," he said.
Under the joint venture agreement with the parking authority, Mr. Zober expects the parking authority to be responsible for garage construction, while the URA most likely would be in charge of development aspects, such as leasing the retail space.
He expects both authorities to have a say in determining the "look and feel of the garage."
While the URA has envisioned a garage with roughly 500 spaces, Mr. Zober said the exact number of stalls and the number of floors, including how many would be above ground and how many below, would be determined over the next six months.
David Onorato, parking authority executive director, could not be reached for comment.
The URA is hoping to recruit "high-level" retail to anchor the space, which is less than a block from Macy's department store. It plans to retain the air rights above the garage for possible office or residential construction.
If the joint venture is approved by the URA board, it would go before the parking authority board for acceptance.
First Published July 11, 2012 12:00 am