Washington-based Millcraft Investments makes successful transition
Pittsburgh's transition from steel town to livable city got a hand from a company with its own history of transformation.
Washington County-based Millcraft Investments began as a steel company that Jack Piatt formed in 1957 from his father's two-man machine shop.
Piatt and his sons turned Millcraft into a top-tier real estate firm whose marquee redevelopment projects include Southpointe in Cecil, Piatt Place in Downtown and the under-construction Gardens at Market Square.
“Our blue-collar roots, much like that of Pittsburgh, taught us that hard work, vision and resilience would ultimately lead to success,” said Jack's son Lucas Piatt, Millcraft's president and chief operating officer.
“There's no question the activity of Millcraft Downtown has made this more of a 24/7 community,” said Jeremy Waldrup, CEO and president of the Downtown Pittsburgh Partnership.
Millcraft's biggest focus remains on Downtown, where in addition to the $103 million Gardens at Market Square it is redeveloping the former Saks department store with Mc-Knight Realty Partners “and has plans for two more large-scale projects within a few miles of Downtown,” Lucas Piatt said. “Our investments in the city will have topped $500 million by the time we are complete.”
Even while it operated its steel company led by Jack's oldest son, Jack B. Piatt II, Millcraft was buying, developing and maintaining real estate projects to support its manufacturing needs in 13 areas, including Ohio, Michigan and Alabama, Lucas Piatt said.
The concept for Southpointe began in the 1980s, when Jack Piatt and friend the late Delvin Miller, a well-known harness racing horse driver at The Meadows, saw a large, vacant site off Interstate 79 in Cecil as a ripe spot for development.
With the help of the late U.S. Rep. Frank Mascara and county officials, Millcraft became the marketing agent and developer for the site owned by the Washington County Redevelopment Authority.
Millcraft's ownership there includes Plaza One and Two, plus the Hilton Garden Inn hotel and Jackson's Restaurant. Other investors and developers own the remaining parcels of the 589-acre site that hosts 150 companies, a golf course and 200 homes.
In 2002, the Piatts sold half of their interest in the steel company to what is now SMS Siemag, and three years later sold the rest.
The company's success at Southpointe caught the eye of Herb Burger, who headed then-Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy's task force to redevelop the Fifth-Forbes corridor, Downtown. Burger wanted Millcraft to purchase and develop the former Lazarus building at Fifth Avenue and Wood Street, which became Piatt Place.
“We decided to take a gamble on the project, but it was a scary time for us,” Lucas Piatt said. “Even our friends and competitors said we were crazy to take on the project.”
With financial help from the city, Millcraft turned the building into retail space and 65 upscale condominiums, adding several floors atop the structure. Total cost was $80 million. All of the space is leased; three condos remain unsold.
“Their activity has had a definite impact, from Wood Street to the Point to Market Square and along Smithfield Street, which will bring more residents and retail Downtown,” Waldrup said.
Millcraft's Downtown portfolio includes Market Square Place and River Vue apartments in the former State Office Building. Washington County developments include Millcraft Center and Crossroads Center, two office buildings in downtown Washington.
“The success we have achieved in Downtown Pittsburgh is something we would like to extend into other cities where their downtown is still struggling,” Lucas Piatt said. He would like to get more involved in high-technology projects.
“I'm only thinking about those in the future, because my concentration now is on two current projects Downtown,” he said.
The Piatts' family of companies includes Millcraft Hospitality, led by Jack's son Marcus Piatt, to operate hotels at Southpointe, Downtown and Pittsburgh International Airport. Another son, Rod Piatt, started Horizon Properties to develop Southpointe II.
Sam Spatter is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7843 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Beacons track shoppers’ smartphones amid retailers’ aisles
- Nonprofit hospitals in Western Pa. feel pain in finances despite Affordable Care Act
- 8 Western Pennsylvania hospitals penalized over infections
- Stock market makes biggest gain in 3 years
- Rice Energy spin-off priced below expected range
- Federated Investors forecasts optimistic scenario for growth in economy, markets
- Harmar developer sells 15 hotels in Western Pa., West Virginia
- FedEx to buy product-return firm Genco in e-commerce push
- 84 Lumber vice president McCrobie says company, housing market rebounding
- Wesco cautious, reaffirms guidance
- EDMC accused in GI Bill scheme