Archive

Boston developer Davis Companies buys Union Trust Building | TribLIVE.com
News

Boston developer Davis Companies buys Union Trust Building

ptruniontrust01020414
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
A Boston developer bought the Union Trust Building for $14 million at a sheriff's sale in 2014. The building is at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Grant Street, Downtown.
ptruniontrust02020414
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
A Boston developer bought the Union Trust Building for $14 million at a sheriff's sale in 2014.

A Boston developer with Pittsburgh ties bought Downtown’s Union Trust Building for $14 million on Monday, ending a drawn-out legal battle over the landmark but providing no clues about its future.

“We are evaluating our purchase of the building, regarding its future use and hope to make a decision within a month or two,” said Jonathan Davis, founder and CEO of Boston’s The Davis Companies, which bought the Union Trust Building at a sheriff’s sale.

Davis said he’s considering office, retail, residential and hotel development for the property.

“It could be an overwhelmingly awesome hotel space, and I also could see it as a good residential play,” said Edward Shriver, a principal with Strada Architecture, Downtown, who is not associated with the Union Trust sale.

Shriver said the building is “more problematic” for office space because of its atrium.

“You don’t find too many office buildings today with holes in the middle of them,” he said.

Lawrenceville architect Luke Desmone of Desmone & Associates perceives potential for redevelopment that includes offices, apartments and a boutique hotel on upper floors. He called the building “one of the classic Pittsburgh buildings that absolutely deserves to be treated like the royalty that it is.”

At least three Downtown office buildings are partially converting into hotels: a Hotel Monaco in the former Reed Smith Building, Embassy Suites in the Oliver Building and a Drury Inn & Suites in the former Federal Reserve Bank.

The Davis Companies’ bid was $1 million higher than one by an unidentified bidder.

Davis has developed properties in 12 states along the East Coast, mostly in New England. Much of the work is developments that have retail, residential and office space. Signature projects include the $300 million redevelopment of Boston’s Charles River Plaza and renovation of the city’s historic Exeter Street Theatre for stores and offices.

This is the firm’s first purchase in Pittsburgh, said Downtown attorney David Lampl of Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl, who represented the developer at the sale.

Davis grew up in Western Pennsylvania and attended Taylor Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill. His mother lives in Pittsburgh.

“Probably now I’ll visit Pittsburgh more than in the past,” Davis, 61, said.

Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Clay Frick constructed the 11-story building with distinctive Gothic exterior and stained-glass central rotunda nearly 100 years ago. It started as a four-story arcade with 240 shops and space for 700 offices above. The arcade flopped, and Frick sold the building at Grant Street and Fifth Avenue to the Union Trust Co. in the early 1920s.

Today, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places but is largely unoccupied. Davis said about 39 percent of the building is leased, almost all to Siemens Corp. Other tenants include first-floor businesses Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches and First Commonwealth Bank.

Siemens, which declined to comment, lost a court battle last year to reduce its space from four floors to two. The court held the company to a 10-year lease that expires in 2019.

U.S. Bank began foreclosure proceedings in 2012 upon winning a $41.4 million judgment against 501 Grant Street Partners, a partnership created by Gerson Fox and Michael Kamen of Los Angeles. Subsequent bankruptcy filings delayed the sale, but a decision by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in California in December cleared the way for the sale.

Sam Spatter and Tom Fontaine are Trib Total Media staff writers. Reach Spatter at 412-320-7843 or [email protected]. Reach Fontaine at 412-320-7847 or [email protected].

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.