Regional Enterprise Tower could host residents

| Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The troubled Regional Enterprise Tower, Downtown, may be closer to a sale to a buyer who would convert part of the building to residential uses.

The 31-story former Alcoa Inc. headquarters building that has served as a regional center for public and private agencies for the past 10 years is under a sales agreement, and a Philadelphia-based developer that has successfully converted one major Downtown building to residential and commercial uses appears to be interested.

Ronald L. Caplan, president of PMC Property Group of Philadelphia, would not confirm nor deny that his company is in negotiation with owner First Commonwealth Bank over the purchase of the building. When asked if his company was interested in converting the building into both residential and office uses, he said, "You may be on the right track."

First Commonwealth spokesman Rich Stimel declined to comment.

This could be PMC's second attempt to purchase the building. Although neither the bank nor PMC would confirm the report, local real estate experts said PMC also made a first offer in January that was dropped.

Last week, Caplan and other executives of PMC were in Pittsburgh to receive an award from the National Association of Office and Industrial Parks for the conversion of the 12-story Verizon office building at 201 Stanwix St., which was purchased in late 2010 for $4.4 million, as the best mixed use project of 2011. An awards event was held on Thursday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Caplan said Pittsburgh has been a good area for his company's investments. The 201 Stanwix building has 110 of its 158 residential units leased, and the City Charter High School has leased all of the commercial space, occupying about 80,000 square feet in the second through fourth floors and the basement.

Other properties owned by PMC in the region include the 117-unit Penn-Garrison Apartment, Downtown, and the 209-unit Kenmawr Apartments in Shadyside.

"We have been able to increase the number of units at Penn-Garrison by making better use of space within the building," he said. Caplan did not disclose how many more units were added.

PMC may purchase more properties in the Pittsburgh region, Caplan said. He did not reveal what properties his company is considering.

The Regional Enterprise Tower has lost a number of tenants over the past two years and may lose more.

First to depart was VisitPittsburgh, the region's tourist promotion agency, which relocated to Fifth Avenue Place, Downtown. The Allegheny Conference on Community Development moved, along with three associate organizations, to 11 Stanwix St., Downtown. And the Regional Industrial Development Corp. of Southwestern Pennsylvania relocated to K&L Gates Center, Downtown.

The Sports and Exhibition Authority is preparing space to relocate to the convention center, which it owns. And the Allegheny County Economic Development Department is looking for space in other Downtown buildings.

First Commonwealth acquired the building through foreclosure on a $10.4 million mortgage in May 2011 for $1,700. Alcoa turned the building over to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission in 1998 for $1. It was intended for use by nonprofit agencies dedicated to stimulating economic development in the region. A heavy debt load forced building managers to put off repairs and upgrades.

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