Corbett: Downtown project will ‘make a huge difference’ in Pittsburgh | TribLIVE.com
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Gov. Tom Corbett announces on Monday, Sept. 29, 2014, a $4 million state grant to revitalize the former Sax Fifth Avenue and largely vacant Henry W. Oliver buildings, Downtown.

The former Saks Fifth Avenue department store and largely vacant Henry W. Oliver Building will undergo a $134 million renovation with state assistance that Gov. Tom Corbett said is an investment in the transformation of Downtown and making Pittsburgh a “destination city.”

A new hotel, apartments, hundreds of parking spaces, office space and 30,000 square feet of retail are lined up for the two structures in a joint venture between McKnight Realty Partners and Millcraft Investments.

At a Monday morning press conference in front of the site at Mellon Square Park, Corbett announced a $4 million state grant toward the development.

“It’s going to make a huge difference in the central business district of Pittsburgh,” he said.

Developers say the project meets the most pressing needs of a growing Downtown: parking, new jobs and hotel space.

The Saks site, dubbed 350 Oliver, will have ground-level retail, 75 to 100 upper-floor residences, and six levels of parking with room for 585 cars and 60 bicycles, with an estimated cost of $60 million. The building has been empty since March 2012, when Saks closed the store after decades of operation.

Lucas Piatt, president and chief operating officer of Millcraft Investment, said the apartments are the key to the area’s growth.

“It’s going to bring 24/7 activity,” he said.

Piatt said half of the retail space is under a signed leased but would not yet announce the occupants.

McKnight is heading up the restoration of the 104-year-old Oliver building on Smithfield Street. Plans include a 225-room hotel operated by Embassy Suites on the top 10 floors, along with a conference room, ballroom, restaurant and 25th-floor lobby.

Chuck Perlow, principal at McKnight, trumpeted the view from the top.

“You can see the building from pretty much anywhere, which means from that place, you can see everywhere,” Perlow said.

The bottom floors will feature 250,000 square feet of office space. Perlow said office space is already leased out on some floors, with more available.

The renovation will be done to historic standards to match the building’s 1910 architecture, including the building’s street-facing facade.

Construction plans are under way, Mc-Knight officials said. The hotel is expected in 2015.

Together, the projects will generate an estimated 234 full-time jobs, 65 part-time jobs and 1,250 construction jobs, officials said.

The development joins two family-owned firms long familiar with Downtown investments. Millcraft’s past projects include Market Square Place, Pitt Place and River Vue, along with The Gardens at Market Square mixed-use complex scheduled to open next fall. McKnight has invested in the Heinz 57 Center, 610 Smithfield Street and the Carnegie Library Downtown branch.

Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8511.

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