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3 vie to remake Produce Terminal in Pittsburgh's Strip District

Tom Fontaine
| Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, 10:42 p.m.
A projection of a conceptual view of the Strip District's Produce Terminal Marketplace illuminates the face of Steve McKnight of Squirrel Hill at the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
A projection of a conceptual view of the Strip District's Produce Terminal Marketplace illuminates the face of Steve McKnight of Squirrel Hill at the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014.
People to listen to proposals on the redevelopment of the Strip District's Produce Terminal Marketplace at a public meeting in the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
People to listen to proposals on the redevelopment of the Strip District's Produce Terminal Marketplace at a public meeting in the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014.
URA Acting Executive Director Robert Rubenstein addresses a room of people at a public meeting on proposals to redevelop the Strip District's Produce Terminal Marketplace on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, in the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
URA Acting Executive Director Robert Rubenstein addresses a room of people at a public meeting on proposals to redevelop the Strip District's Produce Terminal Marketplace on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, in the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District.
Rob Pfaffmann, president of Pfaffman and Associates, presents his firm's redevelopment proposal for the Strip District's Produce Terminal Marketplace during a public meeting in the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Rob Pfaffmann, president of Pfaffman and Associates, presents his firm's redevelopment proposal for the Strip District's Produce Terminal Marketplace during a public meeting in the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014.
Steve McKnight of Squirrel Hill keeps time as design and architectural firms present their ideas in the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Steve McKnight of Squirrel Hill keeps time as design and architectural firms present their ideas in the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014.
Joseph M. Antunovich, president of Antunovich Associates, presents his firm's redevelopment proposal for the Strip District's Produce Terminal Marketplace during a public meeting in the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Joseph M. Antunovich, president of Antunovich Associates, presents his firm's redevelopment proposal for the Strip District's Produce Terminal Marketplace during a public meeting in the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014.
People wait in line to ask questions about redevelopment proposals for the Strip District's Produce Terminal Marketplace on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, in the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
People wait in line to ask questions about redevelopment proposals for the Strip District's Produce Terminal Marketplace on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, in the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District.
Melissa Ferchill, president of the Ferchill Group, answers questions from the public about her firm's redevelopment proposal for the Strip District's Produce Terminal Marketplace during a public meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, in the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Melissa Ferchill, president of the Ferchill Group, answers questions from the public about her firm's redevelopment proposal for the Strip District's Produce Terminal Marketplace during a public meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, in the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District.

A redeveloped Produce Terminal will become a gateway between the Strip District's bustling Penn Avenue and 55 riverfront acres targeted for new housing and retail and office space, three developers vying to restore the landmark said on Wednesday.

“It must be special, and it must be successful. It cannot fail,” said Dan McCaffery of Chicago-based McCaffery Interests Inc. at a public meeting on proposals to redevelop the crumbling, 1,500-foot-long building.

More than 100 people attended.

The city's Urban Redevelopment Authority, which owns the Produce Terminal, is expected to pick its preferred option when it meets on Aug. 14, based on recommendations from Fourth Economy Consulting of the North Shore and an internal review committee.

A preliminary analysis appears to show McCaffery as an early front-runner. Fourth Economy listed just four concerns about McCaffery's $46.4 million plan to develop 118 loft-style apartments, 35,000 square feet of retail space and 20,000 square feet of office space in the Produce Terminal.

The consultant listed nine concerns each about proposals from Ferchill Group and MCM Co. Inc. of Cleveland and a local group headed by businessman Michael Rubino.

Ferchill and MCM are proposing to spend $35.6 million to develop 209 apartments and 18,000 square feet of retail space. The Fourth Economy analysis raised concerns about the group's cost estimates, limited amenities and lack of access to the riverfront.

The Rubino-led group's $19.4 million plan includes 40,000 square feet of retail space anchored by retailers selling deeply discounted merchandise, a 33,000-square-foot public market and space for restaurants and a business incubator.

The consultant raised concerns that URA and the city would continue to own the building, making it responsible for future capital improvements. It also noted that the Pittsburgh Public Market operates in the Strip, and Pittsburgh has a poor track record with retail-led development.

Renee Abrams of Highland Park, one of nine people who commented on the proposals, said she prefers Rubino's plan because it best complements the Strip District.

“We don't need another residential community,” Abrams said.

Fourth Economy President and CEO Rich Overmoyer said his firm is still weighing the proposals. It will factor in public comments made at the meeting and those submitted in writing through the end of the week.

The Strip District-based Buncher Co. acquired an option in 2010 to buy the Produce Terminal. But Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and some preservationists opposed the company's plan to demolish about one-third of the building so it could extend 17th Street to the riverfront, where it plans more than $400 million in development. Buncher agreed to step aside while the URA solicited and considered new development proposals.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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