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Unique Building On Almono Site Faces Uncertain Future

Megan Harris
90.5 WESA
In this 2016 photo RIDC President Don Smith (right) walks in front of Almono’s Roundhouse building. RIDC owns a former mill building on the site, where renovations are expected to begin soon. Potential reuse of the Roundhouse building is unclear. ";

Uber has scrapped plans to lease space in one of three remaining buildings on the 28-acre Almono site where the company’s test track for self-driving cars is located.

Uber signed a lease last spring for a portion of the roundhouse building, which once housed trains for repairs and maintenance.

Cost estimates to renovate the roundhouse came back significantly higher than expected and the building has been reabsorbed into the larger Almono development plans.

Uber declined to comment on the record about the decision.

The goal now is to keep options open, said Rebecca Flora, Almono’s project director.

“At this point we’re really just looking at building in a manner of how do we assess its current structural capacity and any potential reuse,” she said.

The roundhouse is part of a later phase of development, but they will address any immediate needs the building may have, Flora said, adding that the Hazelwood-based site as a whole is ready to take off.

“I’m not sure that it would have been several years ago,” she said. “So I think the timing’s really exactly right, right now, for us to be moving forward.”

Site preparations, such as road building and utility installation, have paved the way for renovation of a former mill building, now called Mill 19, that Almono sold to the Regional Industrial Development Corporation.

Almono partners said they plan to seek teams to design a public space in November as part of Mill 19's ongoing renovation, as well as interested developers for other parts of the site.

Uber has leased roughly 2 million square feet of office space throughout the city and recently filed for a permit to build out a space at 3011 Smallman Street in the Strip District.

Margaret J. Krauss is WESA’s senior reporter. She covers development and transportation, and has produced award-winning podcasts on housing, work, and Pittsburgh’s lesser-known history. Before joining the newsroom full time, she covered the challenges facing Pennsylvania cities as a statewide reporter, and spent another life as an assistant editor for National Geographic Kids Magazine in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at mkrauss@wesa.fm.