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Success of Strip District properties spawns ideas to add residential projects

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By Sam Spatter
Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, 9:40 p.m.

The Strip District's two successful apartment developments — the 298-unit Cork Factory along Railroad Street and nearby 96-unit Lot 24 — are luring developers to work on at least three more.

They are encouraged by the 100 percent occupancy of the apartments; both have waiting lists.

Those successes during the past decade led Oxford Development Co. to plan Three Crossings, with 299 apartments, on the site of the Pitt-Ohio Express truck terminal on Railroad Street, between 26th and 27th streets. When the company moves to its Harmar facility in summer, the terminal can be demolished, said Chick Hammel, its president.

Hammel has encouraged residential construction in the Strip. He and Dan McCaffrey, of McCaffrey Interests of Chicago, and Bob Beynon of Beynon & Co., Downtown, turned the deteriorated Armstrong Cork factory into the complex. He and McCaffrey built Lot 24 as its continuation.

“When I bought the Armstrong Cork facility, I never considered turning it into apartments. But my partners convinced me that it would work, and it has,” he said.

The full occupancy helped Sampson-Morris Group of Monroeville discard plans to turn the New Federal Cold Storage building along Smallman Street into condominiums, offices, a hotel or a parking garage. Instead, the company plans a 144-unit apartment building.

Brian Schreiber expects to begin construction March 1 on 59 apartments on property he owns at Smallman and 11th streets.

Another development that could bring up to 750 units is part of Buncher Co.'s $450 million Riverfront Landing complex, between 11th and 21st streets, along the Allegheny River, the company has said.

Becky Rodgers, president of Neighbors In The Strip, a community organization, isn't surprised that developers are planning apartments there. It's easy to walk the neighborhood, and there's strong wholesale and retail activity.

“We are a vibrant neighborhood, one that is strategically located, close to Downtown, with easy access to the area from all sections of the region,” she said. “We have the Heinz History Center, along with the Pittsburgh Opera and Pittsburgh Ballet, both of which often provide weekend events that attract visitors.”

The $40 million Oxford project — apartments with one to three bedrooms — will include 186 interior and 84 off-site parking spaces, records show. There will be a courtyard with a swimming pool, fire pits and bocce, said Shawn Fox, director of business development. Tenants can walk the trail along the Allegheny River, he said.

“Oxford likes the multi-family market in Pittsburgh, and particularly the Strip District, where tenants can access the Strip's wholesale food and retail market and be close to Downtown,” he said.

The complex will be five stories, with the integral parking level half-underground, said Ben Kelley, Oxford's development manager.

“It will be the first project in Allegheny County's Green Boulevard Plan, and be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified,” he said.

Sam Spatter is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7843 or

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