Downtown Pittsburgh undergoes retail, residential rebirth

| Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

When Brooks Brothers renewed its lease for five years at 600 Smithfield St., Downtown, it was a sign that the Golden Triangle will retain a retail image.

Downtown's retail industry is benefiting from an increased residential population, including university and technical school students.

In recent years developers have established apartments and condominiums to lure residents to Downtown and restore after-hours activity there.

The 2010 U.S. Census found an estimated 7,796 people living Downtown, a 21.3 percent increase over the 2000 Census. Many newcomers own condominiums, built during the past 10 years, while others have moved into apartments, many of them developed out of former office buildings, such as 201 Stanwix Street or the 60-unit Century Building on Seventh Avenue.

Although there were 2,079 rental apartments counted as of the second quarter of 2012, hundreds of apartment units have been added since then. Most of them are in former office buildings, such as the 158 units in 201 Stanwix St., the former Verizon Building.

PMC Properties of Philadelphia, which owns 201 Stanwix, is slowly adding more rental units in former office buildings scheduled to come on line either this year or 2014.

Despite the loss of Saks Fifth Avenue, Downtown still has Macy's department store and Burlington Coat Factory among more than 210 retailers. What shoppers will find Downtown — but perhaps not at shopping malls — are more than 26 jewelry outlets, two fur stores, a number of flower shops and bookstores, specialized retailers such as Cartridge World and The Headgear, and gift shops, including those in the August Wilson Center and the Heinz 57 Center.

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership President and CEO Jeremy Waldrup is helping lead a strategy to attract and retain retailers.

“We are working with the Port Authority to develop a transit circulation route that will bring consumers to the retailers,” he said. “I'm getting a lot of calls from retailers who are not Downtown but are interested in opening a store, but I find there is not a lot of space in the sizes they need to locate Downtown.”

A recent “pop-up” promotion that brought new retailers Downtown resulted in at least two planning to stay, Waldrup said.

“One is Dream Cream, an ice cream facility, located beside Taste of Downtown, in the 500 block of Liberty Avenue,” he said.

Though no leases are signed, retailers including TJ Maxx and Dress for Less are said to be considering Downtown locations.

To meet the retail goal, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation is working with the city to develop an area along Fifth Avenue and Wood Street that would emphasize women's stores, such as Boutique la Passerelle at 417 Wood St.

In the Market Street and Fifth Avenue area, Heinz Healy's men's clothing store and the Nettleton Shoe Shop relocated.

The mayor's office and the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority initiated a Downtown plan, inviting businesses, organizations, universities and public officials to take part. The three-year strategy aims to develop branding and marketing, improve public infrastructure and recommend ways to enhance safety and walkability.

Sam Spatter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7843 or

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