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Pittsburgh's Station Square is in for a year of major changes

Bob Bauder
| Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, 6:51 p.m.
Houlihan's in Station Square will close Jan. 6 after 37 years. The restaurant is shown here on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Houlihan's in Station Square will close Jan. 6 after 37 years. The restaurant is shown here on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018.

The closing of Houlihan's restaurant will be the first of many significant changes this year at Pittsburgh's Station Square dining and retail complex.

Cleveland-based Forest City Realty Trust, which owns Station Square, is planning to have up to eight new restaurants, plus stores and “significant” improvements to the Freight House Shops along Station Square Drive.

Jim LaRue, Forest City's director of asset management, said the new restaurants running from Smithfield Street to the Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel would include outdoor seating along the street.

The company also is talking with UPMC about the potential lease of space for a training center, but UPMC spokeswoman Gloria Kreps said she could not share additional details. LaRue declined to comment about talks with UPMC.

Forest City will begin leasing retail and restaurant space in the first quarter of 2018, he said. Work includes infrastructure improvements along Station Square Drive and a “greening” of Bessemer Court bordering the Monongahela River.

“We're going to make a significant investment into this project,” LaRue said, declining to offer the total amount. “We're going to do a new streetscape, move some of the infrastructure out on the road there to make it a more open and inviting area. It will be more walkable than it is now.”

He said the company would likely display its plans in early May at the International Conference of Shopping Centers in Las Vegas to generate interest from local and national restaurants and retail users.

Forest City is making the changes in response to shifting eating and retail trends. LaRue said occupancy in the Freight House Shops is hovering around the “high 60s” percent range. The neighboring Landmarks Building, which includes the Grand Concourse restaurant, is about 95 percent filled, he said.

Houlihan's lease is expiring and it decided to focus on its restaurants in Cranberry and Mt. Lebanon and other possible sites in Pittsburgh, according to Mike Archer, CEO of Houlihan's Inc. The restaurant will close Saturday .

“We've had a great run in Station Square for 37 years,” he said. “However, the area has changed and it no longer is meeting our business needs. As our lease was coming to an end and we began evaluating all of our options, we made a business decision to close the Station Square restaurant.”

Rascal Flatts restaurant is planning to open in the former Bar Louie location early this year with a full bar and live entertainment. It is named after the country music group.

“They're in there doing construction today,” LaRue said. “My best guess is they are going to open up in the spring.”

Also slated for a spring opening is a memorial to Pittsburgh's Negro League baseball players dubbed Josh Gibson Park along Station Square Drive. The park will feature monuments to Gibson and three other stars, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell and Cumberland Posey.

LaRue said work is well underway on a $60 million apartment complex east of Smallman Street. Dallas-based Trammell Crow Co. is planning two five-story buildings with 319 market-rate apartments, a restaurant and an underground parking garage. The buildings will be connected by a second-story pedestrian bridge. Plans also include an extension of Station Square Drive through the complex and a traffic roundabout on its eastern end.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, bbauder@tribweb.com or on Twitter @bobbauder.

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