'Women's retail corridor' eyed in Downtown Pittsburgh

Jeremy Boren
| Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is set to announce a plan Thursday to entice women's clothiers and other small retailers to open shops in some of the Golden Triangle's historic buildings.

“This continues our vision of creating jobs in Downtown and creating opportunity and economic development,” Ravenstahl said. “This mixes both the new with the old, which has been a centerpiece in my mind of our plan.”

Representatives from the Landmarks Community Capital Corp., a subsidiary of South Side-based Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, are scheduled to join Ravenstahl at a news conference to lay out a program to provide low-interest loans to building owners and first-floor retail tenants that do business Downtown and want to improve the facades of their historic buildings.

The loans will range from $5,000 to $30,000, said Michael Sriprasert, president of Landmarks Community Capital. The money can be used to install lighting, awnings and make other general facade improvements.

The Downtown-based Colcom Foundation plans to donate $500,000 to make the low-interest loans possible.

“There's no fund quite like this,” said Arthur Ziegler, president of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks.

Initially, the low-interest loans will be targeted for retail establishments that sell women's apparel in keeping with recommendations from a Downtown retail development committee that Ravenstahl convened.

“One of their concentrations has been on attempting to create a women's retail corridor similar to what's happened at Market (Street) and Fifth (Avenue) with a men's retail corridor,” Ravenstahl said, referring to a stretch of men's apparel stores the foundation has cultivated on the edge of Market Square.

Men's retailers that have opened there have included Heinz Healey's Gentlemen's Apparel, Larrimor's, The Nettleton Shoe Shop and Jos. A. Bank.

The new loan program will be open to other retail ventures, as well, Sriprasert said.

Owners would be required to agree to give the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks the power to accept or reject facade changes ­— a nod to the 48-year-old foundation's mission to preserve historic buildings.

“It's a nice complement to the work that we're already doing Downtown,” Sriprasert said.

The loans would be available at an interest rate of 2.6 percent. Buildings in the Golden Triangle's designated historic district and in an proposed expanded historic zone would be eligible.

“That's the vast majority of Downtown,” Sriprasert said.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks plans to buy two vacant buildings in the 400 block of Wood Street today from the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority and the URA's board is set to approve the sale. The purchase price is $500,000 and development costs are estimated at $618,387.

The first floors of two buildings will be turned into a single, 2,500-square-foot retail space, Ziegler said. A second retail tenant will be able to move into the first floor of a third building held by a private owner.

“These shops work better when they're near each other,” Ziegler said.

Ziegler said apartments that can accommodate 16 to 18 Point Park University students would be built on the upper floors of the building.

Jeremy Boren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7935 or jboren@tribweb.com.

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