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Promotions, marketing targeted for heart of city, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership says

Kim Leonard
| Tuesday, March 19, 2013, 10:27 a.m.

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership plans to increase efforts to bring people to the heart of the city with more marketing efforts, special events and promoting the retail and restaurant climate, officials said at the group's annual meeting on Tuesday.

The partnership, which represents Downtown merchants, will kick off a public art initiative this weekend with performances in Market Square and 10 “personal saunas” along Liberty Avenue that tie into a film showing. It will expand the popular Paris to Pittsburgh program with a $350,000 grant from Colcom Foundation and will work to attract more private investment.

“This is all about making downtown Pittsburgh a unique and interesting place for people to come and visit, or stumble up on as they're visiting,” CEO Jeremy Waldrup told more than 350 Downtown stakeholders at the partnership's 18th annual meeting in the BNY Mellon Center.

Paris to Pittsburgh, which started in 2008 with $1 million from the foundation, encourages stores and restaurants to expand their operations onto sidewalks.

With 60 building projects under way or planned that represent $2.2 billion in investments, Downtown eight years from now might be barely recognizable from today, Waldrup said after 10 developers, architects and businesses gave new details on work stretching from the Strip District to Uptown and Market Square.

• Buncher Co.'s $400 million Riverfront Landing in the Strip District likely will feature commercial buildings starting at the 11th Street end of the 66-acre site off Smallman Street and housing at the other end, closer to 21st Street, said Michael Kutzer, vice president of real estate.

A public piazza could be built near 17th Street, where part of the landmark Produce Terminal stands, Kutzer said. The project — which calls for office, retail and residential buildings, and possibly hotels — will provide space where Strip District shoppers might go to relax and view the Allegheny River.

Buncher's project includes tearing down part of the terminal building, and critics contend it would detract from the neighborhood.

• Redevelopment of the old Civic Arena site might include a “cap” over the Crosstown Expressway to improve access from Downtown to the envisioned $500 million-plus complex planned there, and give residents easy access to the business district, said Travis Williams, chief operating officer of the Penguins, which is acting as the developer for now.

The 28-acre site could feature 1,100 residences and possibly more given the success of Downtown living projects, Williams said. It will include a hotel and office, retail and entertainment spaces.

• Millcraft Investments will start construction in June on its $95 million Gardens at Market Square with office and retail space, including a 97-room Hilton Garden Inn hotel and Burgatory and Jackson's restaurants, President Lucas Piatt said.

Also, Millcraft and McKnight Properties are refining plans for construction on the old Saks Fifth Avenue site on Smithfield Street once the store is razed. The 130 apartments envisioned there could include 24 small units with lower rents, Piatt said.

The development would include a rooftop pool, spa and yoga rooms for the apartment dwellers, Piatt said, along with retail space at street level, and a 450-space parking garage.

• PNC Financial Services Group Inc. will open a call center with 850 workers in late 2013 in the original Mellon Bank branch and, later, a Lord & Taylor store, after a renovation that “might be one of the largest green historic renovations in U.S. history,” said Gary Saulson, the bank's director of corporate real estate.

PNC is to open its new headquarters Downtown, the Tower at PNC Plaza, after construction is completed in the summer of 2015.

• Highwoods Properties Inc. is working to “energize” vacant retail space in the ground floor of its PPG Place along with the complex's food court and Wintergarden space, CEO Ed Fritsch said. The North Carolina company also owns EQT Plaza on Liberty Avenue and has invested $313 million Downtown.

• The restored Mellon Green outside the BNY Mellon Center reopens April 1, said Vince Sands, chairman of Bank of New York Mellon. The small park closed after a five-month encampment by Occupy Pittsburgh that ended in February 2012.

The Downtown partnership also plans to increase marketing on the Internet, regional advertising and promoting of events such as Light Up Night, weekly Farmers Markets and the new Peoples Gas Holiday Market that will expand with more vendors for 2013. Other efforts will encourage 66,000 college students in and around Downtown to shop and dine there.

Point Park University likely will add 300 more students living Downtown, President Paul Hennigan said, when it completes the next phase of its Academic Village expansion, a new Pittsburgh Playhouse on Forbes Avenue to replace the current theater building in Oakland.

The Downtown partnership-sponsored arts events this weekend will include performances by the Zany Umbrella Circus, Friday through Sunday in Market Square, and “Hotspot” by the Sisters of the Lattice art group, a film showing and meditation event Friday and Saturday nights that will feature “saunas” set up in a Liberty Avenue parking lot.

Kim Leonard is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5606 or

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