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New owner of Clark Building on the lookout for tenants

Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Linda Bucci Reuter, partner at Bucci's Jewelry, in the Clark Building, Downtown.Thursday, November 15, 2012.

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By Sam Spatter
Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

The historic 23-story Clark Building, Downtown, has a new owner and plenty of space to lease.

Known by many in Pittsburgh as the center for privately owned jewelry retail, repair and wholesale businesses and exchanges, the building has six floors and a mezzanine leased to 20 jewelry companies, plus several small retailers.

The job of filling up the other 17 floors of vacant space now falls to Jim Kelly, who represents CWCapital Asset Management LLC, the New York-based owner of the building since April.

Kelly, along with Michael Downey, both of the commercial real estate firm Avison Young, would like to find schools like the two major tenants that left the building this year, or tenants that need a back office for their operations.

Kelly is a principal and senior vice president at Avison Young, and Downey is a vice president.

“We have 25 percent of the building leased, all on the six lower floors, and can offer office space starting at about $17.50 per square foot,” Kelly said.

The older Clark Building is classified as Class B. Kelly believes that as space in Class A buildings Downtown gets tighter, without large blocks of space for tenants, “we can offer new tenants blocks of space of any size.”

“We are chasing a culinary school located outside Pittsburgh, along with companies looking for low-cost back office space, space for schools, and any tenant that needs space Downtown within the Cultural District,” he said.

Pittsburgh City Charter High School, which occupied floors 7 to 11, relocated to 201 Stanwix St., Downtown, the former Verizon Building. The Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts, which occupied floors 12 to 22, decided last year to close and leave the city. Together, the two schools produced 82 percent of the Clark Building's rental income.

“With finite capital to invest and facing an uncertain regulatory environment, we determined the Pittsburgh market was no longer the right location for us,” said Angela Holland, a spokeswoman for Illinois-based Career Education Corp., owner of Le Cordon Bleu.

Le Cordon Bleu still has a small presence in the building as it winds down operations, said Chef Bill Hunt, who occupies a small office on the 15th floor of the building until the end of the year.

Linda Bucci Reuter, a partner at Bucci Jewelry Co., one of the building's jewelry store tenants, said there is a benefit to having her company close to similar retailers.

“It helps our clients and all the local jewelry companies to be consolidated in one building in the center of Downtown,” she said.

Bucci Reuter said the Clark Building jewelers have a niche not always found in competing jewelry stores in a mall.

“Most, like us, are a family-owned company that can provide individual service to our clients, such as providing creative service in the size, shape and type of material included in rings and other jewelry items. Most jewelry stores and jewelry counters in the department stores in the malls have jewelry made primarily in China or other Asian nations,” she said.

Attempts to reach national jewelry companies, whose stores occupy the malls, were unsuccessful.

Bucci Reuter would like to see more specialty retailers in the Clark Building, such as a handbag store and clothing or similar retailers.

The Clark Building, 701 Liberty Ave., was built in 1927 in a joint venture between James Clark, one of the founders of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. film studio, and Stanley Theater Co.

At one time the penthouse suite was the regional headquarters for Warner Bros., and the building had a screening area for MGM films.

Hoban Realty LP purchased the building in 1998 for $9.1 million. The Hobans were co-founders of the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute, which became Le Cordon Bleu.

In 2006, Hoban sold the building for $22.5 million to a New York-based partnership, Singularity Clark LP. Singularity Clark and its principal, Ira Gorman, later were in default on a mortgage loan, owing $22.6 million, according to court documents.

In March 2011, with the building facing foreclosure action, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Christine Ward named Kelly the receiver, acting as special servicer for Wells Fargo Bank N.A., the mortgage holder.

CWCapital Asset Management then acquired the building at sheriff's sale on April 2.

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

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