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PITTSBURGH-Following a 12-month review of a dozen proposals, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has awarded the city’s largest Downtown residential redevelopment project to a team led by Concord Eastridge, based in Washington, DC and Phoenix. Called the Cultural District Riverfront Development, it is a six-acre component of the 14-block Downtown Cultural District that is bordered by Fort Duquesne Boulevard, Penn Avenue and Seventh and Ninth streets overlooking the Allegheny River.

The estimated cost of the project is $460 million. Groundbreaking of the opening phase is scheduled for mid-2007, and completion of the entire project is expected within seven to 10 years. The redevelopment encompasses an aggregate of 700 residential units in a mix of high-rise, mid-rise and townhouse structures and approximately 159,000 sf of retail, primarily on the ground floors of the residential buildings. Residential condos will range from 700 sf to 3,200 sf, and the townhouses will range from 1,400 sf to 2,400 sf.

“One goal is to attract a permanent downtown population,” Susan Eastridge, CEO of Concord Eastridge, tells GlobeSt.com. “So the initial 250 residential units will be for sale. The pro forma calls for all for-sale units, but some in future phases may be rental.” Firm pricing for the residences will be finalized within two months and sales will begin in January, she says.

Nearly 530,000 sf have been allocated for structured parking to accommodate an estimated 1,500 vehicles in underground and aboveground space. Future phases may also include a four-star hotel of approximately 110,000 sf, and Eastridge tells GlobeSt.com, “we are in talks with San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels, which has the kind of boutique hotels we think will be a good fit.”

The goal is to also include a 45,000-sf cultural arts venue, “a smaller venue the trust would like to see here,” she says and anticipates it will be privately funded. There will be gardens and public space between buildings and the entire master-planned district will be engineered and built to qualify for LEED certification from the US Green Building Council.

The lead architect is Stuttgart, Germany based-Behnisch Architekten, joined by Toronto-based architectsAlliance; Copenhagen, Denmark-based Gehl Architects and locally based WTW Architects. Turner Construction, based here, is general contractor.

Concord Eastridge beat out two other contenders in the final round of the competition. They are a JV between King of Prussia-based O’Neill Properties Group and locally based Trek Development Group, and a team led by Greenwich, CT-based Richman Group Development Corp.

The state has provided $10 million for development of the riverfront component, according to Eastridge, and the state legislature has budgeted an additional $20 million. “The majority of the development will be funded in conventional terms,” she says, “and Merrill Lynch is our financial partner.” Most of the land is vacant, and controlled by the trust. “We’re going to buy a portion of it and JV with the trust on a portion. The acquisition of some additional land may be desirable,” she adds.

The trust was founded in the early 1980s and, based on a vision established by H. J. Heinz II, acquired the 14 blocks of a decaying section of the city during an approximately 20-year period in order to transform it into a Cultural District. In public/private partnership, with support from the city, state and Allegheny County, to date, the district has created seven theaters, art galleries and other attractions.

In a statement, James E. Rohr, chairman of the trust and of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, calls the mixed-use Cultural District Riverfront Development “the country’s first master-planned ‘green’ mixed-use arts/residential neighborhood. It is, he adds, “of a scope and magnitude unparalleled in the Cultural Trust’s history.” The project’s economic impact, he says, “will exceed $1 billion.”

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