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Former Saks Store To Be Razed For Parking, Retail And Housing

Mark Nootbaar
90.5 WESA

Another shuttered downtown department store will soon be turned into housing, parking and retail space but unlike some of the other projects launched by Millcraft Investments, this one will start with demolishing the structure.

The redevelopment of the Saks Fifth Avenue property on Smithfield Street and Oliver Avenue is being done in concert with the redevelopment of its next-door neighbor, century-old Henry W. Oliver Building. That office building will be redeveloped to include ground-floor retail, conference space in the second floor, 11 stories of class “A” office space, 10 floors of hotel suits, all topped off by a penthouse lobby complete with restaurant and pool.

“You can see into PNC Stadium, you can to the North Side, you can see the South Side … tremendous views,” said Chuck Perlow of McKnight Realty Partners, which is doing the Oliver Building renovations.

Along with reconfiguring the interior of the building, McKnight will spend about $2 million to renovate the exterior in a historically accurate manner, which will respect the American Renaissance architecture.

The state has released a combined $4 million in RCAP money to the two projects.

“The grant that the governor announced today is crucial in this project,” Perlow said. “We are going to do a first-class historic renovation.”

Repairing the cornice of the building alone will use $1 million of the grant money.

Across the street, the modern design of the Saks building will not receive such reverent treatment. It will be brought to the ground to make way for the new Millcraft project.

“This is our third department store,” said Millcraft CEO Lucas Piatt. “I don’t know why. I guess we love failed department stores. We will turn a failure into a success.”

Piatt said half of the first floor’s 30,000 square feet of retail space has already been leased and he expects to have the rest under agreement by the end of the week. Above that will be a 585-car parking garage that will include bicycle parking and priority parking for electric and hybrid cars. The structure will then be topped off with 75-100 residential units that Piatt believes will fill quickly based on the success of his other downtown projects.

“That’s what’s going to make it successful, that’s what’s going to make it sustainable, because it going to create 24-7 activity in downtown,” Piatt said.

Piatt said this is a continuation of a promise his company made to late Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O’Connor to bring more residential units into the Golden Triangle.

“And it’s happening now with thousands of people moving to downtown Pittsburgh,” Piatt said.

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