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Pittsburgh to weigh proposals for redevelopment of Strip District landmark

| Friday, April 25, 2014, 11:12 p.m.

Pittsburgh will start next week evaluating three proposals to redevelop the landmark Produce Terminal in the Strip District, a top city official said on Friday.

Kevin Acklin, who chairs the Urban Redevelopment Authority, which owns the building, said the city and neighborhood stakeholders will weigh factors, including whether the proposals meet community goals for the Strip and require public financing.

“We're going to be scoring them,” said Acklin, who serves as chief of staff to Mayor Bill Peduto.

Acklin said the highest score gets preference, and the city should be ready to decide the issue sometime in the summer.

Three groups submitted proposals to redevelop the Produce Terminal, he said. Bids were due this week.

Bidders are the Ferchill Group and MCM Co. Inc., both based in Cleveland; a local group consisting of businessman Michael Rubino, Fourth River Development, Pfaffmann + Associates, Pennsylvania Commercial Real Estate Inc. and Market Ventures Inc.; and McCaffery Interests Inc. of Chicago.

“Proposals will be vetted by the review committee,” URA spokeswoman Gigi Saladna said of the next step, offering no timetable on when a decision might be made.

The Ferchill Group and MCM Co. are proposing a $36 million project that would feature 209 rental apartments, with lofts and one- and two-bedroom units, said Melissa Ferchill, chief executive of MCM Co.

A 10,000-square-foot produce market would be on one end of the building. The other end would dedicate 13,000 square feet to an arts center or gallery and retail space. Two pass-throughs would be cut into the building, providing access to the riverfront where The Buncher Co. plans $450 million in development. The pass-through on 18th Street would be wide enough for two vehicle lanes, a bicycle lane and pedestrians. The one at 17th Street would be narrower.

The group would pay for the project with private money and up to $7 million in federal historic tax credits, Ferchill said.

“We think it's a really unique building with a terrific location,” she said, noting the Ferchill Group spent $72 million developing the Heinz Lofts that opened in the North Side in 2005.

A spokeswoman for the group led by Rubino declined to provide details about its proposal.

McCaffery did not return calls.

Neither did officials at The Buncher Co., which had a $1.8 million option to buy the URA-owned Produce Terminal but agreed in February to halt redevelopment plans for six months so Peduto could seek alternatives. The mayor and some historic building preservationists opposed Buncher's plans to demolish one-third of the terminal to extend 17th Street to the riverfront.

Tom Fontaine and Bob Bauder are staff writers for Trib Total Media.

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