Later this fall, Oxford Development Company, based in the Strip District, will celebrate its 60th year as a leader of Pittsburgh’s full-service real estate market. The company was founded in 1962 as Don-Mark Realty. Eugene Lebowitz, a real estate broker, with son Edward Lewis and son-in-law Mark Mason, formed a partnership with Harry Soffer and his son, Donald Soffer.

    Eddie Lewis in 1978.

    Eddie Lewis in 1978.

    Don-Mark Realty purchased 85 acres of land in the Pittsburgh suburbs of Bethel Park and Upper St. Clair and began to develop South Hills Village in 1962. South Hills Village opened in July 1965 and was, at that time, the largest enclosed mall between New York and Chicago, as well as one of the first two-story enclosed malls in the United States. In 1966, the company registered with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as Oxford Development Company to become a corporate entity to purchase the land for Monroeville Mall.

    Lewis was the impetus of the family business since breaking ground for South Hills Village. Over the next 10 years, he led the development of six major shopping centers and helped establish Oxford as a nationally recognized leader in commercial real estate and as one of Pittsburgh’s largest privately held companies.

    Meanwhile, Don Soffer, under Turnberry Associates, ventured to other parts of the country, transforming 800 acres of South Florida swampland into what would become the City of Aventura and developing dozens of successful high-profile projects, including the iconic Turnberry Isle Resort & Club and Aventura Mall.

    Eddie Lewis passed away in 2006, but his legacy remains. “This year Oxford Development Company celebrates 60 years as a company—and 60 years as a shaper of Pittsburgh. Since its founding and under the leadership of my late husband Eddie Lewis, Oxford has been an innovator and a driving force in Pittsburgh’s growth,” says Anne Lewis, former board chair of Oxford. In 1983, Oxford led Pittsburgh’s Renaissance and built the third tallest office tower Downtown—and its namesake skyscraper—One Oxford Centre.

    There have been many other notable projects the firm has worked on in the past six decades, among which are: Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC; PPG Paints Arena (formerly CONSOL Energy Center, and the first LEED Gold Certified Arena in the NHL); 3 Crossings (over 20 acres in Pittsburgh’s Strip District); multifamily properties, including The Yards, Coda on Centre, and Helm on the Allegheny.

    “From South Hills Village (whose revolutionary two-story design became a model for shopping malls all over America) to the Downtown tower mall One Oxford Centre (which defined the 1980s and 1990s) to our latest tech hub here in the Strip at 3 Crossings, Oxford has redefined what it means to work, shop, live, and thrive in a growing urban center,” adds Anne Lewis. “More than 15 years after Eddie’s passing, his legacy lives on in the city he loved.”

    Today, Oxford is a privately owned company organized as a Pennsylvania Subchapter S Corporation. The Mason and Lewis families have remained the owners of Oxford for the last 60 years.

    Over the years, the company expanded its offerings to include additional real estate services such as brokerage, tenant representation, property management, facility management, owner’s representation, and title services.

    Oxford has been recognized as the Largest Commercial Property Manager in the region by Pittsburgh Business Times for the last two years. CoStar’s Powerbroker Awards recognized Oxford Realty Services a Top Firm in 2021, with Art DiDonato receiving honors as a Top Retail Leasing Broker.

    Oxford has also been named Developer of the Year by NAIOP Pittsburgh and was recognized as such at their 29th Annual Awards Banquet on May 19. Additionally, 75 Hopper Place received honors as Best Speculative Office Building.

    Steve Guy, Oxford’s president and CEO.

    Steve Guy, Oxford’s president and CEO.

    All these awards and longevity in business would not be possible without its dedicated team of professionals, according to Steve Guy, Oxford’s president and CEO. “We have a very bright and dedicated team with a long tenure,” says Guy. “Approximately 25 percent of our corporate employees have been here longer than 20 years.”

    Oxford moved its headquarters to the Strip District in September 2019. When asked why, the answers were simple. “We wanted to be a part of what we were creating at 3 Crossings,” says Guy. “It also allowed us to revamp our corporate culture and implement some of the sustainable changes that we had been longing to complete. And do you really need to ask, Why the Strip?”

    Oxford’s current Strip District headquarters.

    Oxford’s current Strip District headquarters.

    The real estate market in the region continues to change dramatically, and Oxford has stood at the forefront. “The Pittsburgh region started to come into its own and compete with other comparable cities over the past 10 to 12 years; prior to that we were considered a real estate investment destination of low/last resort,” says Guy. “The western Pennsylvania region has been lifted by a few notable industries and influences, including world-class technology and research universities, tremendous health-care organizations and investment, a generous and diverse foundation community, and finance. This has led to strong industry sector growth in technology and health care, which has driven the broader market forward even in the face of lackluster population growth.

    The Yards apartment complex.

    The Yards apartment complex.

    “These successes have helped to develop significant growth in our ability to attract institutional investors, retain our young talent, and set the table for a better tomorrow. This has led to what I believe is one of the most fundamental changes in the real estate market—the absolute adoption of sustainable development. Building healthy buildings that are safe for people and the planet, that are connected to our communities, and opening our wonderful legacy assets such as riverfronts, parks, and bike trails is what it is really all about.”

    Oxford’s overall approach to the real estate market is simple, according to Guy. “We read the market and the community rather than make 10-year plans that may deliver what a community does not need or want, but always looking to have developments lead with a strong sustainable and responsible footprint,” he says.

    One sector of the national real estate market that has surprised Guy the most in terms of performance has been retail.

    “Heading into the pandemic, I was convinced that retail would have the most difficult time rebounding of all sectors, but they are coming back,” he says. “I am also surprised at the strength in both the industrial and multifamily classes of real estate and believe each will remain very strong for the foreseeable future.”

    3 Crossings Hopper Park

    3 Crossings Hopper Park

    Looking ahead, Guy says that the company hopes to continue to push the envelope when it comes to developing with inclusion and sustainability at the forefront of the project.

    “Oxford is more than a real estate developer,” he says. “We think of ourselves as community builders. Whenever we take on a project the very first question we ask is, How is this going to benefit the community? As an owner’s representative, we have helped craft some of Pittsburgh’s most recognizable neighborhoods and landmarks.”

    Visit oxforddevelopment.com for more information.

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    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.