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Pittsburgh URA nears consultant deal to analyze Produce Terminal options

| Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 3:18 p.m.

The city's Urban Redevelopment Authority is close to finalizing a deal with a North Side consultant to evaluate alternatives to demolishing part of the Strip District's Produce Terminal, officials said Tuesday.

The URA plans to vote Thursday to hire Fourth Economy Consulting to study proposals from developers, including at least two in Pennsylvania and others from Ohio and Texas, said Timothy McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto.

The authority would pay the consultant up to $35,000 for the work.

“It is not uncommon for the authority to engage third-party consultants to evaluate economic impacts, financial viability and market feasibility on major projects,” URA acting Director Robert Rubinstein said.

“Of course the URA has its own experts, but the mayor would like a neutral third party that can give another set of eyes to the building and its needs,” McNulty said.

Peduto reached a deal last month to get the Buncher Co. to halt its development plans for the Produce Terminal for six months so other proposals can be investigated. Buncher has a $1.8 million option to buy the former food distribution hub from the URA, which owns the building.

Buncher planned to tear down a third of the 1,500-foot-long building so it could extend 17th Street to riverfront property it owns. It would renovate the rest of the terminal. Peduto expressed concerns about the demolition plans, proposing ideas such as cutting several “pass-throughs” in the building instead.

Buncher is planning more than $450 million in riverfront development. Thomas J. Balestrieri, Buncher's president and CEO, has said work will continue during the six-month standstill, including construction of a road to run roughly parallel with Smallman Street behind the Produce Terminal.

Fourth Economy, founded in 2010, has done work for the URA before. In 2012, the URA awarded the firm a $9,000 contract to study the potential impact of the $104 million Gardens at Market Square development, Downtown.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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