Developer wants to add sandy beach, lagoon, Ferris wheel to North Shore | TribLIVE.com
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Developer wants to add sandy beach, lagoon, Ferris wheel to North Shore

Bob Bauder
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Millcraft Investments
Washington-based Millcraft Investments is planning a $700 million residential, retail and entertainment complex dubbed Esplanade along the Ohio River next to Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino featuring a two-acre lagoon, Ferris wheel and large aquarium.
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Millcraft Investments
Millcraft Investments is planning a $700 million residential, retail and entertainment complex along the Ohio River next to Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh featuring a 2 acre lagoon, Ferris wheel and large aquarium.

Imagine sipping a rum cocktail on a veranda overlooking a sandy beach with the setting sun reflecting off clear, blue water.

In Pittsburgh?

Yes, says Lucas Piatt, president of Millcraft Investments, a Washington-based development company.

Millcraft is planning a $700 million complex dubbed Esplanade next to Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh’s Chateau neighborhood.

It would include a two-acre lagoon for swimming and other water activities, a large Ferris wheel, an aquarium, and four signature 200-foot towers housing a hotel, offices, apartments and condominiums.

“We want to use the amenities in the project as a hook to bring people in to stay for a day, a night, a week and also use it as way to say, ‘here’s another great reason for people to move here to Pittsburgh,’” Piatt said. “It’s another reason to say why your company should move here, or that next hot engineer should come here, or that next tech company should come here.”

Plans are to have the complex completed by 2025, he said. Construction is expected to start in 18 to 24 months. The project is currently being designed.

It would center around the lagoon. It’s planned to be the first in the world that can be converted from a beach in the summer to an ice rink and thermal spa during winter months.

Piatt said the lagoon would have separate entrances. One side would offer beverage and food service for adults. The other would be reserved for families.

“We want it to really work all year ‘round and be something that’s utilized in the four seasons,” he said. “We also have a fountain show that will occur in the lagoon in the evenings. It will be a beautiful place to sit and have dinner outside and watch the fountain show.”

The Ferris wheel will be nearly 200 feet in diameter and modeled after ones in the National Harbor near Washington, D.C., and Chicago’s Navy Pier. Millcraft is working to replicate a cab from the original Ferris wheel created by Pittsburgher George Ferris Jr. for Chicago’s 1893 Colombian Exposition. Ferris lived in the North Side.

One of the cabs could hold up to 60 people. Piatt said the replica would sit at ground level and serve as a possible museum/ticket area where visitors can get the feel of the original wheel designed by Ferris.

An aquarium will sit on the opposite end of the 15-acre complex from the Ferris wheel and be operated by a for-profit company, he said. A parking garage is being planned for the aquarium. The condo and apartment buildings will also contain parking spaces. Piatt said the complex will feature a total of about 1,500 parking spaces dispersed throughout.

The apartment tower will include about 300 apartments with 60 available to people earning 50 percent of the area’s mean income, about $38,000 for a family of four.

About 200 condominiums are planned for the other residential tower.

Piatt said the hotel would be “upper scale” and marketed for family and business trade.

A riverfront marina will also include a residential element with houseboats for sale and rent.

Piatt said people would be able to live on the riverfront or rent one of the houseboats for a weekend stay.

Millcraft is planning workforce development programs to prepare Pittsburgh residents, particularly Manchester residents, for job opportunities at the complex.

Intersection improvements that would provide better pedestrian and bicycle access from Manchester to Chateau are also in the works. Piatt said. Route 65 separates the two neighborhoods.

“We’re talking thousands of new jobs and millions in annual economic impact,” he said.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-564-3080, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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