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Argo AI headquarters to anchor Oxford building in Strip District

Matthew Santoni
| Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, 9:39 a.m.

Argo AI will locate its headquarters in a new office building Oxford Development is constructing in the Strip District, officials announced Tuesday.

The autonomous-driving startup aims to put about 200 workers engineering the software and hardware for self-driving cars in Riverfront West, the fourth office building in Oxford's 3 Crossings project.

Though the company will continue to have offices in Silicon Valley and Dearborn, Mich., working with automaker Ford after the company made a $1 billion investment in Argo , keeping its headquarters in Pittsburgh was important to attracting and retaining talent, its cofounders said.

“It's important to keep this talent in our region,” said CEO Bryan Salesky, pointing to the engineers graduating from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. “There are only so many universities that graduate the type of talent we need.”

“It makes ‘heartstrings' sense, but then you go and look around the city and see how attractive it is,” COO Peter Rander said.

Argo will take an unspecified amount of the 131,000-square-foot space, including some first-floor workshops for basic mechanical work on the tech-packed Ford Fusions the company has started driving on Pittsburgh streets — with drivers operating them, for now, Salesky said. The company is looking for other space in the Strip to act as a depot for the fleet of cars, which should start autonomous operations later this year.

City and county officials, including Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh Councilwoman Deborah Gross and Kevin Acklin, chief of staff to Mayor Bill Peduto and chairman of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, lauded the headquarters as further evidence of a “robotics row” that had formed between Downtown, the Strip and Lawrenceville. Both Salesky and Rander had spent time at Carnegie Mellon's National Robotics Engineering Center.

Fitzgerald alluded to Argo's local competitor in the self-driving industry, Uber, whose gray Fusions and Volvo SUVs have been driving around the city for about a year , and joked that soon people could see “these white cars and those gray cars ... racing around the track as to who's going to win; who's going to get out there and do the best technology.”

Oxford CEO Steve Guy said the 3 Crossings building on 16 acres along Railroad and Smallman streets between 25th and 29th streets should be ready for its first move-ins by July. Its last phase should be completed by September, he said.

He noted that the development has helped clean up the riverfront by remediating contaminated industrial sites and extending a biking and walking trail along the river. As exterior work on the building is completed, Oxford will spruce up the trail behind it with some wildflower plantings and benches and will work with Riverlife on long-term enhancements to the riverfront, Guy said.

Oxford broke ground on 3 Crossings in 2014. Its 375,000 square feet of office space also include corporate headquarters for Rycon Construction and the law firm Burns White. There are more than 500 spaces for cars, bikes and kayaks in “the Hub” building and 300 luxury apartments along the riverfront in The Yards.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724 836 6660, msantoni@tribweb.com or via Twitter @msantoni.

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