District 15 building occupied by Facebook.

    District 15 building occupied by Facebook.

    Dozens, and soon hundreds, of workers will be showing up for lunches, happy hours, dinners, and other activities in Strip District businesses in the coming months as two new technology-directed office buildings debut along Smallman Street.

    District 15 and District 15 Beta (sometimes styled “D15trict Fifteen”) both take their names from the Strip District and 15th Street and comprise collectively about 325,000 square feet of space suitable for most any sort of business activity.

    The four-floor District 15 (between Smallman Street and Waterfront Place—also known as Railroad Street, eastern side) at 15th Street is completed and currently in the “build-out phase”—finishing touches to accommodate tenant needs. It’s expected to be occupied before the holidays.

    The larger nine-floor Beta building (same location, western side), measuring 220,000 square feet, will be breaking ground in autumn with completion and occupancy expected in December 2020.

    There is no residential component to either development. The Beta building when completed will have about 400 parking spaces. Limited retail—basically supporting the tenants’ workday—will be part of the Beta building as well.

    The big news at 15th and Smallman is that Facebook, the company, has leased the entire four floors (105,000 square feet) of District 15, although the social-media behemoth is saying nothing about what it intends to do there. Numerous phone and email inquiries to Facebook—now hyper image-conscious—yielded no information.

    Flexibility is the key in the design of both buildings, as they’re intended to support all sorts of possible business activities, providing traditional offices and meeting rooms but also allowing for laboratories, light manufacturing, day care and fitness facilities, and anything else sometimes deemed essential to modern enterprises.

    Marketing and leasing of both District 15 sites are being managed by CBRE Pittsburgh. Their Patrick Green confirmed that Facebook has leased all of District 15, but was not at liberty to say what they plan on doing there. Green also said it was premature to discuss prospective tenants for the nine-floor Beta building, considering that construction is in the preliminary stage there.

    Rendering of the District 15 Beta building.

    Rendering of the District 15 Beta building.

    RDC Design + Build is the construction partner for both developments. Shawn Fox at RDC confirmed the flexibility challenges of the Beta structure, citing unusual height and floor-space requirements that might be necessary depending upon who leases there and what they intend to do within their space. Fox said “a little retail space” will be incorporated as well, though he couldn’t yet speculate what style or size that retail might embrace.

    Still, location is a key attraction for both District 15 developments. Designers and builders realize that you can “do” technology most anywhere, and university campuses might be ideal for that. But doing the workaday business of technology still requires old-school factors like paper documents, handshakes, hearings, and depositions.

    The new buildings, just beneath the Veterans Bridge, are a few minutes’ walk from the county and federal courthouses, city and county bureaucracy offices, the federal office building, the convention center, major banking headquarters, and leading accounting and law firms that simply are not handy for campus and suburban business locations.

    What this means for the future, vitality, and milieu of the Strip District is speculative—but certainly glowing.

    William McCloskey is an East End writer and editor. Contact him at 412-829-6549, pghnews.351@gmail.com.
    Top photo by Greger Erickson

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