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365 high-end apartments proposed on Strip District land

Tom Fontaine
| Tuesday, July 14, 2015, 3:09 p.m.
The Buncher Co. has proposed a 365-unit apartment building in the Strip District near the Allegheny River.
The Buncher Co. has proposed a 365-unit apartment building in the Strip District near the Allegheny River.

High-end housing development in Pittsburgh's Strip District is accelerating as young professionals and empty nesters look for housing that's a convenient commute to work and close to the city's amenities.

P. Christopher Dirr, vice president of Cleveland-based NRP Group LLC, briefed city planners Tuesday on plans for 365 luxury apartments along the Allegheny River in a project that he said likely will exceed $60 million.

Dirr said his firm is already eyeing a companion residential development that could bring up to 400 additional apartments to the Strip.

“We're enthusiastic that the market interest is going to dictate that it will be a fairly domino effect,” Dirr said. “Our effort is to complement the things that are happening and the growth that's occurring in Pittsburgh.”

Dirr said parents whose children have left home are downsizing from larger houses to apartments in the city. He also pointed to job growth in the technology and health sectors as areas that are driving demand.

“If we want the Googles of the world to find the community attractive, then we have to provide an environment that employees find attractive,” Dirr said, highlighting amenities such as the proposed apartments' easy access to the city's riverfront trails, Cultural District and Downtown.

The Strip's Buncher Co. hired NRP to oversee residential development on a 55-acre former industrial site that Buncher owns. Office development is also planned as part of what's envisioned as a larger $400 million project. Mike Kutzer, a Buncher vice president, referred questions to NRP.

The proposed 365-unit apartment building would be the rapidly growing neighborhood's largest residential development in recent years. More than 1,000 upscale apartments recently have been completed or are in the pipeline in the Strip, a former industrial center known for its gritty charm and bustling markets.

Among other projects, Downtown's Oxford Development began a $130 million project last year that includes 300 upscale riverfront apartments, while Chicago-based McCaffery Interests developed the 298-unit Cork Factory, the 96-unit Lot 24 and is now considering lofts for the neighborhood's landmark Produce Terminal.

How long can the residential boom continue?

“I've been hearing that question for several years now, but there still seems to be a lot of pent-up demand,” said Dan Adamski, managing director of the commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle. “There seems to be a snowball effect: the more units (developers) build, more people move to the Downtown area and there are more people who want to live Downtown.”

Jeff Ackerman, managing director of the real estate firm CBRE Inc., said, “It's hard to measure demand because you're doing a forecast as to where demand is going to be when construction is completed and that could be two years away, but we have seen steady demand for some time now and new projects have been pretty well absorbed.”

NRP's first building would be between 19th and 21st streets and the Allegheny River and a street being built called Waterfront Place.

Work would start next spring and take up to 24 months to complete. The first tenants would be able to move in as soon as 16 months because of the phased work schedule.

One unique design feature is the building's six-story parking garage, including 460 spaces, electric car charging stations and room for bicycles and kayaks. Aside from the garage's Waterfront Place entrance, it wouldn't be visible to passersby. Apartments would wrap around the garage.

The development also would include two courtyards, riverfront trail access and a plaza on 19th Street.

Average rents haven't been determined, Dirr said.

City planners gave the development positive reviews.

“It's a very thoughtful design,” said Planning Commissioner Paul Gitnik.

Also Tuesday, Oxford Development outlined plans for a 172-unit, $20 million apartment building at 5739 Centre Ave. in Shadyside, at Commercial Street. Oxford hopes to start the 16-month construction project in early September. It would include studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments. Average rents haven't been determined.

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

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