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State building reopens as apartments

| Friday, May 25, 2012, 7:52 p.m.
The former State Office Building in Pittsburgh is now the River Vue apartments.
Heidi Murrin  Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The former State Office Building in Pittsburgh is now the River Vue apartments. Heidi Murrin Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
A one-bedroom model unit.
Heidi Murrin  Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
A one-bedroom model unit. Heidi Murrin Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Niki Beehner, her finace Tom Combs and her father Stephen put things into the couple's new apartment.
Heidi Murrin  Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Niki Beehner, her finace Tom Combs and her father Stephen put things into the couple's new apartment. Heidi Murrin Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

It's River Vue now.

The former State Office Building, a 16-story structure that once housed scores of drab, crowded office cubicles, began a new life on Friday as tenants began moving into the renovated building dubbed River Vue Apartments.

Tom Combs and fiancee Niki Beehner were the first tenants to claim their keys yesterday afternoon.

Combs, 31, a Greensburg native, has lived in Victorian-era houses in Shadyside for the past four years. He said he and Beehner are thrilled with their contemporary, one-bedroom apartment. They are even considering getting a dog because River Vue is "pet-friendly."

"I'm really excited to be here. The Downtown scene is getting a lot better, and this is great. Point State Park is my front yard, and Market Square being close by was a big selling point," Combs said.

"I can walk to baseball games. I can walk to football games. I literally can't think of a better place to be in the city," he said, gazing out at the park through the 5 12-foot-tall windows that span the living room wall of the apartment.

River Vue Manager Krissy Presutti of Lincoln Eastern Management Corp. said 88 units have been leased. About 45 tenants are expected to move in between now and the end of June, with others to follow throughout the summer.

Rents range from $1,050 a month for a studio apartment to $5,500 a month for a three-bedroom, 2 12-bath, 3,000-square-foot apartment on the 15th and 16th floors.

Tenants will be moving into floors two through six this summer as work continues on the upper-floor units, Presutti said.

Millcraft Industries of Washington, which purchased the building from the state in 2010 for $4.6 million, has spent two years and $45.5 million transforming the dreary, asbestos-laden, 57-year-old office building into 218 apartments featuring amenities including granite kitchen countertops and stainless-steel appliances.

The basement and part of the first floor have been equipped as a parking garage, with 24-hour valet parking for $190 a month. The other half of the first floor facing Liberty Avenue is being renovated for Stone Neapolitan Pizza, a restaurant that will feature patio dining in warm weather.

The 5 12-foot-tall windows that offer views of Point State Park on one side of the building and a plaza garden and Fifth Avenue Place on the opposite side are among the only holdovers from the State Office Building, Presutti said. Although the foot-wide windowsills and interior blinds are new, the windows still crank open about 8 inches for those with a hankering for evening breezes.

State Auditor General Jack Wagner criticized the sale of the building as a bad deal for taxpayers but the Pennsylvania Department of General Services insisted that it would save the state $14 million over 20 years to sell the building and rent office space throughout the city rather than spend the $65 million that officials estimated it would cost to renovate it as an office building.

Millcraft officials said taxpayers would benefit because the building is being returned to the tax rolls.

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