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New Island Studios Movie Production Complex Supports Southwest Pennsylvania’s Growing Filmmaking Industry

30 Oct 2014, 6:22 pm

By Adriana Pop, Associate Editor

The region’s film production industry is getting a big boost with the construction of a new multi-stage complex on a five-acre property at the former Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad brownfield in McKees Rocks.

According to the Pittsburgh Business Times, Island Studios Exp., LLC is investing $10 million into the development of an 80,000-square-foot movie studio facility, which will include 60,000 square feet of sound stage space, one of the largest in the region, in addition to production office space, warehouse space and crew housing.

The company recently celebrated the groundbreaking of its new complex. It was joined by Gov. Tom Corbett, who announced a $2.5 million Economic Growth Initiative Grant that would support the project, and a host of other public officials and film industry representatives.

“When completed this project will help make Pittsburgh a national leader in film production and bring more jobs, more economic growth, and more attention to a city with undeniable character,” Gov. Tom Corbett said in a news release.

Scheduled to be complete in about nine months, the new movie production complex is expected to create 250 jobs, which will add to the current 14,500 jobs supported by the state’s $1 billion filmmaking industry.

“An industry does not grow overnight,” Russ Streiner, producer of George Romero’s iconic 1968 zombie thriller “Night of the Living Dead” and film office board chairman, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Each element that comes into the infrastructure makes Pittsburgh more and more and more viable for the film production industry.”

The Pittsburgh Film Office reports that since 2007, producers have invested more than $500 million into Western Pennsylvania’s economy to make nearly 70 movies and television shows.

Since 2008, Island Studios Exp. has held a film production studio on McKees Rock’s Island Avenue, which it converted from a former industrial shed.

Next to CSX Corp.’s new $50 million intermodal freight center, the company’s expansion project will be the second anchor for Trinity Commercial Development’s brownfield redevelopment of the more than 52-acre former rail yard in McKees Rocks, a business park that is expected to total 600,000 square feet.

 Photo credits: www.thestagepgh.com

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State Approves $10M Subsidy Package for Pittsburgh’s Almono-Hazelwood Brownfield

23 Oct 2014, 4:17 am

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett announces $10 million in state grants for the redevelopment of the 178-acre Almono property in Hazelwood

By Adriana Pop, Associate Editor

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has announced $10 million in state funding to help support the approximately $1 billion redevelopment of the former LTV Steel site along the Monongahela River in Hazelwood.

The subsidies, which include a $5 million Economic Growth Initiative grant and a $5 million Transportation Economic Development Fund grant, would be used to cover parts of the project’s infrastructure cost, which amounts to an estimated $103 million.

According to Corbett, the investment has the potential to turn what was once an environmental wasteland into a prosperous center of commerce and innovation.

Upon completion, the redevelopment of the city’s last major brownfield is set to bring about 1,400 housing units, 1.3 million square feet of office space and approximately 950,000 square feet of industrial space. The property covers 178 acres of vacant land owned by a consortium of four local foundations called Almono LP.

Construction on the project, which is being managed by the Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern Pennsylvania (RIDC), is expected to span over two decades.

“There’s huge interest in this site, tremendous interest in this site, from developers not only in the region, but across the country,” Don Smith, president of RIDC, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Really, it’s all just interest until we can give them some certainty that the site will be ready for their buildings to open.”

In 2012, at Gov. Corbett’s initiative, the state’s method of funding the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program underwent a significant redesign. The selection process, which is now more transparent and objective, aims to promote projects based upon their job-creation potential, their economic impact, as well as their viability and construction readiness.

So far, the Corbett administration has announced 58 new Economic Growth Initiative grants, totaling more than $133 million. The projects are expected to create more than 45,000 jobs in 24 counties across Pennsylvania.

Photo credits: The Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern Pennsylvania

Click here to read our most recent multifamily market snapshot for Pittsburgh.

Alco Parking Owner Plans New Office Complex on Pittsburgh’s North Shore; Highwoods Properties, Soffer Organization Unveil Major SouthSide Works Office Project

15 Oct 2014, 4:49 pm

By Adriana Pop, Associate Editor

Alco Parking president Merrill Stabile is planning a major office development and parking garage on the land he owns behind PNC Park on Pittsburgh’s North Shore.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, plans call for the construction of two, 11-story glass towers offering a total of 600,000 square feet of Class A office space. The buildings (of 250,000 square feet and 350,000 square feet, respectively) would rise atop a new five-story, 1,227-space parking structure. The site of the new development is currently used for parking, with enough spaces for a maximum of 400 vehicles.

Kim Clackson, senior vice president of CBRE, is marketing the project, which would only be built with a signed anchor tenant. This should not be a problem, according to Stabile.

“We think the market is right. I think over the next two to three years there are enough potential users that one of them would be interested in a site with such a high profile and so many amenities,” he told the newspaper.

In other news, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Raleigh, N.C.-based Highwoods Properties has partnered with the Soffer Organization for the development of four office buildings within the 34-acre SouthSide Works complex in Pittsburgh. The entire project would bring a total of 400,000 square feet of office and retail space.

Construction on the first building, a 158,000-square-foot glass office structure on the Monongahela riverfront, next to Hofbrauhaus restaurant, is expected to begin as soon as an anchor tenant is secured for at least a portion of its space. Upon completion, the six-story facility will offer 30,000-square-foot floor plates, terraces, an 8,000-square-foot restaurant, locker rooms, bike storage, a 72-space parking garage, as well as direct access to the waterfront park, trails and marina.

The rest of the project will be built upon demand.

In downtown Pittsburgh, Highwoods Properties also owns the iconic PPG Place and EQT Plaza.

“We’re looking to expand our footprint here in Pittsburgh. We’re excited about Pittsburgh. We’re a developer by background, so this gives us an opportunity to develop what we see as very high-quality office space,” Andy Wisniewski, Highwoods vice president in Pittsburgh, told the newspaper.

Photo credits: (1) Artist’s rendering of the North Shore Office Complex by Merrill Stabile in Pittsburgh; (2) Highwoods Properties via www.post-gazette.com

Click here to read our most recent multi-family market snapshot for Pittsburgh.

October Development’s $20M Hotel and Apartment Project in Pittsburgh Receives $3M Economic Growth Initiative Grant

9 Oct 2014, 6:59 pm

By Adriana Pop, Associate Editor

A $20 million redevelopment project centered around the renovation of the former ARC House building on Pittsburgh’s North Side will result in a new 120-key Comfort Inn by Choice hotel, a 300-space parking garage and a 36-unit apartment building.

According to the Pittsburgh Business Times, Gov. Tom Corbett has announced a $3 million Economic Growth Initiative grant that would support the new development, which is slated to rise along a two-acre stretch of East Ohio Street in Historic Deutschtown. The area, which includes 20 parcels, is an active junction for nearby Interstate 279 and Route 28 and serves as a gateway location for all of the city’s North Side neighborhoods.

A team led by locally based October Development and assisted by the North Side Leadership Conference has yet to determine the project’s construction start.

The redevelopment of the historic 20,000-square-foot bank building has in fact been in the planning stages for about five years.

“It’s an incredibly important site for the Deutschtown neighborhood and for the North Side as a whole. It’s about remaking that entry point. Right now, what you see is a beautiful but vacant bank building and a bunch of empty lots and vacant and decaying structures. It’s not what the North Side is,” Mark Fatla, executive director of the North Side Development Conference (NSLC), told the newspaper.

Design and financing for the project are yet to be finalized, as are the agreements with other development partners. North Side Community Development Fund, a subsidiary of the NSLC, is one of the funding providers for the new development.

“This investment will continue our mission of making the city of Pittsburgh a premier, worldwide destination,” Corbett said in a press statement. “Bringing people and jobs to the Northside area will ensure that we can continue to build a stronger city and state.”

Other grants recently awarded by Gov. Corbett include $30.7 million for United States Steel Corp.’s $187 million investment in its Mon Valley Works operations in Braddock, as well as $4 million for the revitalization of the former Saks department store building on Smithfield Street in Pittsburgh.

Photo credits: LoopNet

Local Civic Groups Trigger Eleventh-Hour Deal to Save Pittsburgh’s August Wilson Center for African American Culture

3 Oct 2014, 4:32 am

By Adriana Pop, Associate Editor

Just as a trial was getting under way in the protracted dispute over the future of the debt-ridden August Wilson Center for African American Culture in downtown Pittsburgh, a soon-to-be-formed nonprofit foundation reached a multi-party settlement to buy the property for $8.49 million.

According to the Pittsburgh Business Times, court-appointed receiver Judith Fitzgerald agreed to retract a previous deal with court-approved high bidder 980 Liberty Partners LP of New York and enter a new agreement with the URA-supported rival bid for the purchase of the property. The new proposal was advanced by a consortium of local civic groups led by the Pittsburgh Foundation, who plans to fully re-establish the center.

The New York developer had bid $9.5 million to construct a 10-story luxury hotel on top of the building, while providing a limited free space for the museum. Government officials however turned down the offer, saying that the building must be used exclusively as an African American cultural center, as per the deed covenants.

Last year, Dollar Bank filed an action with the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, seeking to have the property sold at sheriff sale. The bank claims the center is nearly $8 million in default of its mortgage.

“I am very pleased that through collaboration among the city, Allegheny County, our foundation community and Dollar Bank we reached a settlement today that preserves the future of the August Wilson Center as a place to celebrate African-American culture. In Pittsburgh, we work together to solve our problems, and that is what we did here to preserve this vitally important asset,” Mayor William Peduto said in a prepared statement.

Named in honor of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who grew up in the city’s Hill District, the August Wilson Center opened in 2009. It offers multiple exhibition galleries, a 486-seat theater for performances in all genres, an education center for classes, lectures and hands-on learning, as well as dazzling spaces for community programs and events. A significant portion of the $40 million cost of the project was financed through public and private foundations.

Photo credits: www.perkinswill.com

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