The East Liberty Story

This morning I attended the NAIOP Pittsburgh monthly chapter meeting at the William Penn. The meeting feature a panel that included developers Todd Reidbord (Walnut Capital) and Mark Minnerly (The Mosites Co.), along with Kyra Straussman from the URA. Councilman Dan Gilman moderated. It was surprisingly informative.

(From left) Dan Gilman, Kyra Straussman, Mark Minnerly and Todd Reidbord tell the East Liberty turnaround story at NAIOP Pittsburgh.

(From left) Dan Gilman, Kyra Straussman, Mark Minnerly and Todd Reidbord tell the East Liberty turnaround story at NAIOP Pittsburgh.

I say surprisingly because the story of East Liberty’s transformation has been told a lot. I mean, A LOT. But when these active participants retold what it took to redevelop East Liberty, especially when you heard the timeline of all the projects at once, it was impressive. Most observers have accurately characterized the turnaround of East Liberty as a long, painful process. While that’s true, it was also apparent from this morning’s presentation that much of what we consider to be the turnaround story has happened in just the last five years or so.  The thing that struck me was that Whole Foods signed on in 2002 and it was another six or seven years until Target arrived on the scene. After that, Bakery Square wasn’t open for business for another two years or so. That’s a lot of investment since the start of the Great Recession.

The presentation concluded with a brief discussion of the Larimer redevelopment, for which a $30 million Choice Communities Grant was received. I can’t see Larimer turning around like East Liberty, but then I can’t say I shared the vision of what would happen in East Liberty ten years ago. It’s an amazing change.

A bit of construction news: Continental Building Systems has started work on the $2 million, 17,000 sq. ft. Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar at North Shore Place II. JLL is receiving bids on March 24 for USAA on 56,000 sq. ft. of fit-out for Cabot Oil & Gas at 2000 Park Lane. Precision Builders, Rycon and Shannon are the bidders.

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