Easy access to the central business district as well as all points north, south, east, and west has transformed both the Strip District and Lawrenceville. As a result, these neighborhoods continue to see increased occupancy by both residents and businesses—and therefore an explosion of new construction and beautifully reconverted historic buildings.

    CBRE: District Fifteen / 3000 Smallman Street

    3000 Smallman, at the corner of 30th Street.

    3000 Smallman, at the corner of 30th Street.

    The Strip District in particular has a distinct advantage of being within walking distance of downtown Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Cultural District, notes Pat Greene, senior vice president of CBRE. “The Strip is the logical extension of the central business district.”

    The Strip and Lawrenceville certainly have other advantages. Greene explains: “There are ample sites available with plenty of low-cost parking. We’re seeing more adaptive use of old industrial and warehousing sites, which are now being utilized for a higher and better use as office space, retail, and hospitality.”

    Greene’s firm is currently marketing District Fifteen (cbre.us/d15), a 105,000-square-foot, four-story office building located at the corner of Smallman and 15th streets. Scheduled for a January 1, 2019, completion date, this will be the first speculative Class-A office building in the Strip.

    “The building will offer cutting-edge technology,” says Greene. “It will include a small fitness center, men’s and women’s shower and locker facilities, indoor bike storage, bike repair benches, and EV charges in the parking lot for electric vehicles. We’re trying to attract technology tenants with a younger employee base. Recruiting and retention of employees is easier with modern buildings and amenities that appeal to a younger workforce.”

    The building is being developed by Orange Star Properties and RDC, Inc. The architect was DLA.

    “One of the things that makes this specific project unique is the location at 15th and Smallman streets,” says Greene. “This area is considered to be the gateway to the Strip District.”

    At 15th Street, a new riverfront landing is being planned, which would be an added amenity for District Fifteen. The new landing will overlook the river, providing an opportunity for pop-up cafés, food vendors, or casual dining. A ramp connecting to several boat slips will allow visitors the unique experience of arriving by water for a bite to eat.

    CBRE is also marketing 3000 Smallman Street, a four-story, 24,000-square-foot Class-A office building with on-site parking. Building completion is targeted for the first quarter of 2019. Located at the corner of 30th and Smallman streets, this facility is also minutes to downtown Pittsburgh and within walking distance to the Strip District’s many amenities. The window line on each side of the building will provide a high glass line ratio, abundant natural light, and great views.

    Franjo Construction: TRYP Hotel / Smallman Place / UBER Advanced Technology Group (Crucible

    Over the past three to five years, Franjo Construction (franjoconstruction.com) has completed more than 10 projects and has several others that will be finished in 2018 in Lawrenceville and the Strip District. Most of the work has consisted of condominiums and apartment complexes ranging from 12 units to 243 units in a single building.

    “We have unique experience in renovation work within the Strip and Lawrenceville,” says Anthony Trapuzzano, director of business
    development for the firm. “Most of the work has consisted of revitalization of existing industrial or commercial space to residential, hospitality, or office space. We also started work on the TRYP Hotel, which is the second boutique hotel of its kind in the Pittsburgh market.”

    Some of their current projects include:

    The TRYP Hotel (177 40th St.; Desmone Architects; begun Mar. 2018) is set to be completed by December 2018. The former Washington Education Center is currently being transformed into a boutique TRYP Hotel, Lawrenceville’s first hotel in years. The hotel will include social lobbies and fitness guest rooms (with exercise bikes and healthy breakfasts). Each floor of the hotel will feature a different theme such as metal, masonry, print/draft, wood, and trade school.

    Smallman Place (2419 Smallman St.; Indovina Architects; begun July 2016) is nearing completion this month. The former home of cigar and paper manufacturers, this adaptive reuse development provides residents with modern, loft-style condominiums. Many units showcase existing wood-beamed ceilings and masterfully placed brickwork preserved over the years. Other units offer a more contemporary design with eight-foot-high windows, balconies, and city views from the upper floors.

    UBER Advanced Technology Group “Tenant Fit Out Crucible Building” (3011 Smallman St.; NEXT Architecture; begun Oct. 2017) will be completed this November. UBER Advanced Technology Group’s 100,000-square-foot expansion into the Crucible Building will accommodate up to 700 new employees. The new facility will include three floor plates with ample conferencing and breakout space. The design acknowledges the history of the building while maintaining UBER’s modern look.

    Like Greene, Trapuzzano says location is what makes the Strip and Lawrenceville a popular destination for businesses and residents: “These neighborhoods are great for development mainly because of the location near downtown Pittsburgh and the perceived technology center (UBER). It’s also a prime location on the river, with easy commutes to the sporting and gaming venues.”

    Venture.RE: Heirloom Superfood Market / Cinderlands Beer Co.

    Heirloom Superfood Market at 3101 Penn Avenue.

    Heirloom Superfood Market at 3101 Penn Avenue.

    Adam Hoppel, principle of Venture.RE (venturere.us), a boutique real estate brokerage, management, and development firm, has found the Strip and Lawrenceville to be in high demand, especially for tech companies.

    “They want to be in these neighborhoods because of their central location in the city,” he says. “People want to live here as well, and that drives up demand for commercial, retail, and residential space.”

    Since demand is great, vacant lots are scarce, so Venture.RE has been purchasing and redeveloping existing sites. What Hoppel and his team have found is a very supportive community in both neighborhoods.

    “Everyone has been relatively easy to work with,” he says. “Along with the location, that’s another reason we recommend these two areas often to our investors.”

    In mid-July, Hoppel joined four other partners to open Heirloom Superfood Market at 3101 Penn Avenue: Pittsburgh Juice Company co-founder Naomi Homison; Asante Bierria, Pure Grub; Tim Vernon, Frontier Cultures; and Anne Marie Ellison Miller, AMEM.

    Heirloom is a multi-vendor health and natural food marketplace that provides highly nutritional items and organic food. Venture.RE converted the former 31st Street Pub into this superfood co-marketplace. The market on the first floor, along with a production facility in the back, covers about 2,000 square feet. There’s another 1,500 square feet on the second floor designated for meetings and events.

    “This was a special project for us because we wanted to make it a collaborative community effort,” says Hoppel. “We plan to bring local food vendors and farmers into the space and allow them to sell directly to customers.”

    Hoppel says the space was designed with the intent to allow it to be flexible and modular for multiple different users, adding, “We were engaging the community because of that network effect of bringing in all these small independent food purveyors.”

    Hoppel’s team is now working on converting the former Spaghetti Warehouse into a new location for Cinderlands Beer Co. (slated for a Mar. 2019 opening). They also built out its first location in Lawrenceville. They are rebuilding a new facility from the ground up—preserving the brick facade of the former 60,000-square-foot Strip District restaurant.

    The former Spaghetti Warehouse reconstructed for a new venture.

    The former Spaghetti Warehouse reconstructed for a new venture.

    “The historical significance of the site is the reason we made the attempt to keep as much of the original brickwork and facade as possible,”
    says Hoppel. “We wanted to keep the history of the Strip while adding elements that further personify the Strip and Pittsburgh in general. In addition to the original exposed brickwork outside and inside, you’ll also see big structural steel beams exposed throughout.”

    A large rooftop deck will be added to the new Cinderlands location as well. “We added the deck because we found large outdoor patios to be
    lacking in the Strip District,” says Hoppel.

    The architect on the project is EDI International and the engineering firm is PVE Engineering.

    Blake Ragghianti: Port of Pittsburgh Distillery

    Blake Ragghianti, founder and head distiller of Port of Pittsburgh Distillery, LLC (portofpittsburgh.com), grew up in Pittsburgh’s South Hills but always had a fondness for the Strip. “I’m really into my genealogy, which is mostly Italian, Scottish, and Irish,” he says. While doing some genealogical research, Ragghianti spent time traveling and reconnecting with family abroad. He says that the Strip is the closest you can get to that kind of transformational travel experience.

    For the past year, Ragghianti and his investment partner Mark Willson have been restoring and refitting the space at 2613 Smallman Street near the old Spaghetti Warehouse, which will house the new Cinderlands brewery.

    “The building, built on Mary Schenley’s land, was constructed at the turn of the century as a stable and carriage house for Craighill Hauling,” says Ragghianti. “During renovations we actually found some old equestrian equipment buried under the floorboards. We’ll have those restored and hung prominently on the wall.”

    The building was also once a major lumber mill for the city, and most recently housed the Artistry store. “In a place where modern offices and luxury condos are springing up quickly, it’s more important than ever to preserve one of the oldest buildings in the neighborhood. It’s a relic, a time capsule,” Ragghianti emphasizes, “and we’re doing our best to honor that.”

    Ragghianti and Willson worked with Margittai Architects to restore and preserve the unique aesthetics and history of the building. Construction on the project is being performed by MM Marra Construction.

    “Unlike most other distilleries, we’re building a place in which we want to live, work, and play,” says Ragghianti. “Everyone who’s going to work here will be like family and this will be like our home.”

    The custom still was designed in Italy and built in Germany and is not only top of the line, but stunningly beautiful, notes Ragghianti. It sits next to a long steel bar, which will host a carefully curated selection of the best beer, wine, and spirits from across the state and feature its own products. The space will also have several semi-private lounge areas. Even their offices will be different, Ragghianti says, mentioning a hammock, warm rugs, a small library of booze- and travel-related books, couches, and the likely presence of his sheepdog, Quincy.

    “We’re all friends and business partners who enjoy both socializing and brainstorming together,” he says, and then briefly mentions his background as a professional musician—a hint there might even be some live music events on location as well.

    The facility will have a total occupancy of about 300 to host anything from weddings, corporate events, and fundraisers, down to small business meetings and luncheons in some of the more private areas.

    Steel goes up at 2601 Smallman for the new home of Cinderlands Beer Co.

    Steel goes up at 2601 Smallman for the new home of Cinderlands Beer Co.

    “We really want this to feel like a place people can just come and hang, grab a coffee or a cocktail, meet a friend, pull out their laptop and stay a while,” says Ragghianti, who anticipates opening in October or November.

    “Presently we’re finishing a branding exercise with Moxie USA and expect to release our full name and logo in short order,” Ragghianti says. “It’s taken us years to get to this point but we want to make sure it really suits who we are and what we’re trying to accomplish. I want to build something I can be proud of, something my future kids can be proud of. So we’re extremely focused on sourcing the best possible raw ingredients, and honoring the traditions and cultures of the places we find them. I want to transform these raw ingredients into something truly exceptional with unparalleled quality and originality.”

    With one Double Gold from the New York International Spirits Competition under his belt in 2018, that’s not likely to be a problem.

    Daniel Casciato is a full-time freelance writer and social media specialist from Pittsburgh. In addition to writing for The Strip!, he writes health, legal, real estate, and technology-related articles for trade and consumer magazines and has his own copywriting business. His website is DanielCasciato.com.
    Photography by Greger Erickson