Highmark announces $20 million upgrade of Downtown Pittsburgh headquarters
Highmark Health announced plans Wednesday for a $20 million renovation of its Fifth Avenue Place headquarters in Downtown Pittsburgh.
The project includes enhanced retail and dining areas open to the public on the first two floors and other improvements throughout the 31-story building at Stanwix Street and Penn Avenue. Highmark also plans a sidewalk patio area with seating.
“Most of the upgrades will be throughout the lobby space and the retail space, including the dining hall,” said Karen Hanlon, Highmark’s COO. “All of that space is accessible and open to the public, so we’re really excited about this reenvisioned space and how bright and airy and open it will be for people to come in and visit, enjoy lunch, enjoy some shopping and contribute to the vibrancy of the city.”
The building is owned by Highmark subsidiary Jenkins Empire Associates and has served as the company’s headquarters since it was completed in 1988. More than 3,000 Highmark Health, Highmark Health Plan and Allegheny Health Network employees work in the building. It also houses 16 tenants. The office space is completely filled and 72 percent of retail space is occupied with such shops as Crystal River Gems, Edina Style Accessories and Katie’s Kandy.
Hanlon was unsure if all of the shops would remain after the renovations.
“We’re actually just starting discussions with the tenants right now on all of the changes to see who wants to be a part of it going forward and what role do they want to play,” Hanlon said.
She said work on the building would start soon.
“You’re going to start to see things moving on the facade of the building,” she said. “The doors here are so old that they’re less than energy efficient. We’ve got to start to get those sorts of things replaced.”
Fifth Avenue Place is one of Pittsburgh’s signature buildings, constructed during the city’s Renaissance II era. It was built on the site of the iconic Jenkins Arcade, which evoked childhood memories of a popular button shop in the old building from dignitaries attending the announcement.
“You think about this space, and as I look out on this room there’s probably nobody whose mother or grandmother didn’t come down here to buy buttons when it was Jenkins Arcade,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.
The Downtown population has increased in recent years from about 1,500 to a current 15,000, and the renovated building would serve as a neighborhood asset, officials said.
“The improvements they’re making at Fifth Avenue Place will benefit more than just Highmark and their employees,” said state Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline. “These improvements will benefit the growing number of people who live Downtown, the thousands of people who work Downtown as well as the visitors who flock Downtown for a show, an event, a game or any number of the amenities that Downtown has to offer.”
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .