Building to be gateway into tech hub
John Deklewa couldn’t help but marvel at the contrast — a Strip District site that once churned out horseshoes now serving as the gateway into a tech hub that includes the development of autonomous vehicles.
“This is the new entrance of Robotics Row. Talk about transformational,” mused Mr. Deklewa, CEO of RDC Design + Build.
His firm is hoping to cash in on that transformation with the construction of a four-story, 105,000-square-foot office and research and development building at the corner of 15th and Smallman streets.
Dubbed District 15, the $23 million building is specifically designed to cater to a tech crowd that seems to be gravitating more to the Strip.
It will feature a first-floor high bay with 18-foot ceilings tailored for research and development, plus three floors of office space. There also will be a fitness center, shower facilities and bike storage on site as well as outdoor patio space, two public plazas and a fourth-floor terrace.
Bridgeville-based RDC and its partner, Orangestar Properties of Mineral Ridge, Ohio, near Youngstown, broke ground Wednesday on the building, which will be located a stone’s throw from the iconic produce terminal, which is slated for redevelopment.
Confident of the demand for space in the Strip, RDC and Orangestar are starting construction without a tenant in hand.
“Obviously, being in the position to break ground, we can’t be more excited about not only the amount of tenants that have shown interest in this location and our building, but the type of tenants,” said ShawnFox, an RDC principal.
Among those that have expressed interest are robotics and artificial intelligence companies, as well suburban and out-oftown firms looking to move into the city, Mr. Fox said. “I think it’s a combination of the location and the type of building we’re offering,” he said.
According to Mr. Deklewa, the site — in the 1800s — was used for the mass production of horseshoes and nails for horseshoes.
It also is part of the expanse of property that writer James Parton surveyed from the Hill District when he infamously described Pittsburgh with its smoke-belching factories as “hell with the lid taken off,” said Bill Flanagan, chief corporate relations officer for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. “That’s literally how far we’ve come,” he said.
Farfrom those industrial roots, the Strip now is home to tech firms such as Apple, Uber, Argo AI, and Robert BoschLLC.
Mr. Deklewa said the new development will honor the Strip’s past with antique brick and oversized windows to resemble an old warehouse and its future witha curtain wall, glass articulations and angles to represent “new ideas and technology.”
The new building is being erected on land owned by the Buncher Co. It is part of Buncher’s ambitious $450 million Riverfront Landing development, which is to feature more than 750 units of housing, plus retail and office space, on 37 acres of prime Allegheny riverfront now used mostly for parking.
Construction is expected totake 10 months.
District 15 will be Orangestar’s first building in Pittsburgh. The real estate management and investment company also has properties in Texas.
Artist rendering of the RDC Star LLC four-story office building known as District Fifteen.