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URA Gives Preliminary Approval To Produce Terminal Deal (With Two Conditions)

Margaret J. Krauss
90.5 WESA
After four years, developer McCaffery Interests may soon be able to begin renovations of the historic Produce Terminal.

The board of Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority voted Thursday to approve a deal for the redevelopment of the Produce Terminal in the Strip District. The vote cleared the way for developer McCaffery Interests to take a long-term lease on the building.

While McCaffery technically now has site control, the approval was contingent on two conditions: the details of the agreement will be posted for public comment for 25 days. And the URA and McCaffery will begin lease negotiations with one of the building’s long-time tenants, the Society for Contemporary Craft. The board will take a final vote at its April meeting.

The two additional requirements were the result of contentious discussion, in which some accused McCaffery Interests of being disingenuous.

In her comments to the board, Councilwoman Deb Gross said, “I believe it is our job at this moment today to guard against commercial gentrification in the Strip District,” and called for the URA to sign a lease that ensures the Society will remain in the Produce Terminal before closing a deal with McCaffery Interests.

CEO of McCaffery Interests, Dan McCaffery, said he likes the Society for Contemporary Craft and is going to stretch to keep them in the building.

“I have no way of knowing if the distance that I stretch is enough for them,” he said. “So I’m trying to keep my options open while being respectful of the fact that they are non-for-profit and a good arts community icon.”

Everyone just wants to do what’s best, said board chairman Kevin Acklin.

“I wouldn’t take the tension in the room today around the vote as anything other than Pittsburghers being very proud of this opportunity and making sure that the commitments that are being made by the developer and by the URA come to fruition,” he said.

McCaffery presented his company’s vision for the five-block long building, one that focused on the kind of “energy” the project could bring to the neighborhood. A street plan includes sidewalks and benches and active outdoor spaces, with a plaza dedicated to art on the 21st Street side. McCaffery said he would work with the community to ensure it is always an active, local space. Inside includes a “food-centric” market and 40,000 square feet for local and regional businesses.

“We’re looking to do a great project,” he said. “[To] even imply that we’re trying to do something that wouldn’t be good for the Strip—if it’s not good for the Strip I’m gonna lose a lot of money, and they still own the building.”

The board’s vote approved a long-term lease and a deed for McCaffery to make improvements to the building. If McCaffery were to sell his lease, the city would have the right of first refusal.

However, the deal might see further changes, depending on how the URA board views public comment on the agreement.

If the board approves the deal at its April meeting, McCaffery Interests expects to be able to open a restored Produce Terminal to the public in fall of 2019.