ShareThis Page
Business

Meeting sought to keep Saks in Downtown

| Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011

An attempt to keep Saks Fifth Avenue as a Downtown department store is in the works.

A representative of Saks' landlord is trying to arrange a meeting with the company and city officials.

"I hope to get all the parties — Saks, the landlord and the city — together in 30 days to discuss a proposal to make improvements to the Saks store," said Gary Wilson, principal of Langholz Wilson Ellis, the commercial real estate agent who represents landlord Oliver-Smithfield Joint Venture.

In September, Saks gave notice to its landlord that it could terminate its lease for the 513 Smithfield St. store in two years. The upscale retailer is pushing Pittsburgh city officials and its landlord for help to overhaul the four-level building, a former W.T. Grant Co. discount store, which it has occupied since 1977.

Whether all parties will meet within that time period is undecided.

"We have received a proposal from the landlord, and we are currently evaluating it. We are open to having a dialogue with all parties. But as of now we have not determined if we will be able to meet with them" said Julia Bentley, a Saks spokeswoman in New York.

Robert Rubenstein, economic development director for the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority, said "we continue to engage in a dialogue with Saks and their representative."

The URA has been talking for the past 18 months with Saks and the landlord representative about a possible URA loan, he said.

"Saks is an important business to our central business district, and we would be delighted if our business financing programs can play a role in keeping them here for the next 20 years," he said.

Both the URA and the landlord have expressed an interest in meeting, Wilson said.

Saks, which still has about 18 months left on its lease, would like to follow the "template" of its New York store, which features designated boutique space for various designers on the first floor, he said.

What is needed is a commitment from Saks, the city and the landlord to share in providing funds for the $10 million in renovations and upgrades, he said.

"The city, through the URA, has said there is no free money available, but it is interested in providing a low-interest loan, if the other parties agree to participate," Wilson said. Saks has not said no to the plan, he said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me