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Business

Center's plan moves forward

| Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A plan for a South Side complex that would be a launching point for Asian companies seeking business opportunities in the United States is moving forward.

Despite a dispute with a former marketing representative for the project, Surety Pittsburgh, a group planning the $60 million One International Center on property adjacent to the Hot Metal Bridge, hopes to complete a deal to buy the 3.39 acre development site near the SouthSide Works development within several months.

The group recently provided an update on the project to the Pittsburgh Planning Commission, which will hold a formal hearing on the project April 18, said Jeremy Smith, city zoning administrator.

The center would offer 209 condominium units that companies from countries such as China, Korea and Taiwan could use as U.S. sales or marketing offices.

Surety Pittsburgh, a unit of Surety Holding Development Co. of Freehold, N.J., has an option to buy the site near the SouthSide Works retail and office complex for $1.7 million from the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Surety Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is in a dispute with William Shia, a Hong Kong businessman who formerly led marketing efforts for the project in Asia.

Shia said marketing for One International Center is at a standstill because Surety Holdings Corp. "severed" its cooperation with his firm, Surety Asia Limited, in July. But Jerry Dettore, the URA's executive director, said the matter appears to be an internal dispute that isn't affecting the project.

"As far as we are concerned, these are bona fide people with a reasonable proposal," Dettore said. He said the developer also has adequately documented its plans to finance the project.

Craig Kirsch, executive director of Surety Pittsburgh, denied Shia's contention that marketing has stopped, and the developers have demonstrated that fact to the authority.

"I don't know what he (Shia) is doing, but he's no longer involved in the project," he said.

Plans call for a nine-story building with two oval-shaped wings at Hot Metal and Sidney streets. The building will have more than 300,000 square feet of space, and parking for 268 cars nearby.

Downtown-based architects Pfaffmann & Associates and Urban Design International of Hong Kong designed the project, which also would include first-floor stores and restaurants catering to companies that locate there.

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