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URA Looks to Buy Saks Building Downtown; Building New Apartments in Lawrenceville

Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority board has voted to enter into an option agreement to purchase the old Saks Fifth Avenue Building for $4 million. The plan is to turn it into a parking garage. Acting Executive Director of the URA Robert Rubinstein said residents have been asking for more downtown parking for a while now, and added the Saks site would be a good place for more spaces.

"It is centrally located around hundreds of millions of dollars of investment that's going to be coming online over the next three years," he said, "that includes the Lord & Taylor Building across the street that has been purchased by PNC, we'll have 800 people working there."

Other draws include the former Alcoa building, which is being converted into a residential building, and the Oliver Building, which may house a hotel in coming years. Plus, Rubinstein said, the ground level of the parking garage at the Saks site would house some small-scale retailers to add to the shopping already anchored in downtown.

The URA will work with the Parking Authority on feasibility studies for the new parking garage over the next six months.

Also Approved New Project in Lawrenceville

The URA also voted to finance the Doughboy Apartments project, which will consist of commercial space on the first floor and 39 residential rental units. Most of those apartments will be available at market rate.

"A percentage of the units will be income restricted, meaning the tenants have to earn below a certain level income, in this specific case, 50% of area median income," said Tom Cummings, housing director for the URA.

Making some of the units income restricted enables the project to qualify for financing incentives, including a low-income tax credit from the state. Beyond that, Cummings said the mixed-use building will bring together a diverse mix of people and help energize the neighborhood.

The $13 million project will create 60 construction jobs and 20 permanent jobs, and contribute $150,000 in annual tax dollars to the City, Pittsburgh Public Schools, and Allegheny County. Construction is estimated to start in the fall, and will take roughly a year, with occupancy expected as early as fall 2013.