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Developer shows Buncher plans for 400 Strip District apartments, townhomes | TribLIVE.com
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Developer shows Buncher plans for 400 Strip District apartments, townhomes

Tom Fontaine
PTRBUNCHER01050814
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Construction work goes on behind the Produce Terminal in Pittsburgh's Strip District on Wednesday, May 7, 2014.

What once were rusting, crumbling rail yards and mill sites along the Allegheny River in the Strip District are rapidly evolving into high-end city living spaces and urban trails and parks.

The latest piece of that puzzle fell into place Thursday as developers from Pittsburgh and Cleveland announced another major project: at least 400 luxury apartments that officials said will help transform 20 blocks of former industrial riverfront into one of the city’s jewels.

“The riverfront will not only be an asset for the project and for people who visit the Strip; it can be an asset for the entire region,” Lisa Schroeder, CEO of redevelopment group Riverlife, said. Schroeder noted $4.1 billion in development occurred in Pittsburgh adjacent to where officials spent $128.8 million on trails and other amenities in the past 15 years.

The Buncher Co. and its partner, Cleveland-based developer NRP Group, said they plan to spend $100 million to develop at least 400 rental units starting next year. The units will be built between 11th and 21st streets, on more than 50 acres between the river and Smallman Street’s landmark Produce Terminal. It is Buncher’s first major building announcement for the 55 acres adjacent to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and the city’s popular Strip District shopping area.

The proposal is the latest for an area experiencing explosive development, particularly on the residential front.

More than 1,000 upscale apartments recently have been completed or are in the pipeline near the Strip’s Allegheny riverfront, and more are planned along Penn Avenue. The boom includes condominiums and other for-sale housing.

Two weeks ago, Oxford Development broke ground on a $130 million office and residential development a few blocks east.

Schroeder said Riverlife will work with the developers, other property owners between 11th and 31st streets and government officials to develop what she describes as a 20-block riverfront park. It would be comparable to ones in the SouthSide Works and North Shore. Trails could feature plazas, marinas and other amenities.

It would be part of what is known as Three Rivers Park, a 13-mile riverfront network of trails and other features that runs roughly from the West End Bridge on the Ohio River to 11th Street on the Allegheny and the Hot Metal Bridge on the Monongahela River.

The Buncher-NRP project is part of Buncher’s larger plan to pump more than $400 million into residential and office development in the area. The company could build up to 400 residential units.

“Riverfront Landing is not only an opportunity for more people to make the city of Pittsburgh their home, but for us to contribute to a thriving neighborhood that is (within) walking distance of the central business district, Heinz Field, PNC Park and numerous other regional attractions,” said P. Christopher Dirr, vice president of development at NRP Group in Cleveland.

Construction is expected to begin in the fall of 2015, with initial units being completed by the spring of 2017. The units will feature studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans, including two-story townhomes and penthouse lofts. All will have panoramic views of Downtown and the Allegheny River, the companies said.

“We are pleased that some of our objectives are finally becoming a reality,” Buncher Vice President Mike Kutzer said.

Buncher’s riverfront plans no longer include redevelopment of the Produce Terminal.

Mayor Bill Peduto opposed the developer’s plans to demolish part of the building and extend 17th Street almost to the riverfront development. His administration is negotiating with a pair of private developers to develop plans for the terminal, which could include residences.

Peduto is embracing the riverfront plans.

“Riverfront Landing is an outstanding example of what can happen when we work together to improve our community and embrace our shared mission to provide an upscale community for our residents,” Peduto said, adding that residential development is key to attracting new businesses.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-320-7847 or [email protected].

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