Five Guys burger chain to open in PPG Place downtown
By Aaron Aupperlee
Published: Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, 10:11 p.m.
PPG Place will welcome a new restaurant as uncertainty lingers about the future of its food court.
Highwoods Properties Inc., the Raleigh investment trust that bought the six-building PPG Place in September 2011, recently signed a lease with Five Guys Burgers and Fries to open a restaurant at 3 PPG Place, Downtown, said Andy Wisniewski, Highwoods' Pittsburgh representative.
Highwoods has wanted to revive eating and retail options in PPG Place to compete with growth around Market Square.
“We are looking at the big picture, the food court and street-level retail of all six properties,” Wisniewski said. “The Five Guys kind of kicks that off for us.”
Some of the first Five Guys franchises, a national burger chain with roots in the Washington, D.C., area, were in the Pittsburgh area, said Molly Catalano, a spokeswoman for the restaurant. Five Guys has nine Pittsburgh-area locations. The restaurant at PPG Place will be its first in Downtown. Wisniewski hopes the restaurant will open in the fall.
“Pittsburgh has just been really great to Five Guys,” Catalano said. “They saw it as a great opportunity in a great spot.”
With Five Guys moving into a street-level storefront, questions remain about what will become of the food court in the basement of 2 PPG Place. Wisniewski said a number of options are under consideration for the food court, but he declined to give specifics.
At the beginning of June, Fernando's Gourmet Eatery closed and moved out of the food court. Vince Aliberti, who took over Fernando's from its founder, said management of the food court forced him out by refusing to renew his lease. Aliberti said it was part of a plan to empty the food court of its tenants and make way for something new.
“They weren't going to give any leases down there because they didn't want any long-term commitments,” Aliberti said. “To them, two years is a long-term commitment.”
Court documents show the leaseholder was more than $38,000 behind on its rent when the lease was terminated. Aliberti said the lease and rent were managed through a different company with which he was not involved. He tried to resolve the rent issue, but Highwoods would not deal with him, Aliberti said.
Wisniewski declined to comment.
Denny Scott, the owner of Market Street Grill and Asiago Express, said he is in negotiations with Highwoods to find another location outside of the food court.
“The food court is going away,” Scott said.
For Aliberti, leaving the food court has expanded options for his business. Fernando's recently opened a shop in a street-level storefront at 625 Stanwix St.
At the food court, Aliberti could serve only sandwiches on buns, not pizza, burgers, pasta or anything else that would compete with surrounding restaurants. He can stay open later and hopes to draw large crowds when the Pirates are in town.
“I can see the scoreboard from here,” he said.
Aliberti, who used to manage Blimpie sandwich stores in Pennsylvania and western New York, also plans to franchise Fernando's.
Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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