Menu Contact/Location

Building owner casts wary eye on Millcraft

By Andrew Conte
Saturday, May 27, 2006

Gerald Schiller is on yet another developer’s radar.

Over the years, whenever new developers arrived in Pittsburgh with plans for the Downtown retail corridor, they targeted at least some of the several buildings Schiller and his family own at the intersection of Forbes Avenue and Wood Street.

Now, Washington County-based Millcraft Industries wants to put a new building with loft apartments at the northeast corner of the intersection — in place of the former Bolan’s Candies building that Schiller owns. A proposal the company made to Mayor Bob O’Connor shows a rendering of a new building on that corner.

The problem is, Schiller said Friday, no one has talked with him about buying the building or working with him to redevelop it. His tenants, and at least one potential renter, want to know how long they can stay.

“It looks like they’ve got plans that are unknown to us,” Schiller said. “I wasn’t approached. I think I have every reason to be paranoid, based on the history.”

Millcraft’s long-range proposal includes nine sites on five Downtown blocks, including condos above the former G.C. Murphy’s building, an entertainment complex in Warner Centre and a three-story bookstore at the southwest corner of Forbes and Wood.

Millcraft doesn’t own all of the buildings it would need for the entire development, but it is talking with property owners about joint ventures, said Brian Walker, the Cecil company’s chief financial officer.

O’Connor wants the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority to give Millcraft the exclusive right to purchase 19 city-owned properties. The company has a temporary agreement with the URA, allowing it to market the properties to potential tenants.

The Bolan’s Candies building appears on a map the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation is recirculating to remind developers which buildings it wants to save Downtown. The group sent its map to Millcraft, said Kathy McCollom, the foundation’s spokeswoman.

The preservation group compromised by accepting PNC Financial Services Group’s plan to tear down all buildings on the north side of Fifth Avenue for its Three PNC Plaza development, she said.

“We’re reminding people again,” McCollom said. “This was a consensus agreement on preservation issues.”

Walker said Millcraft has talked with representatives from the landmarks foundation.

Schiller said the Bolan’s Candies building appears on the preservation list because of its distinctive facade. Two-story arched windows with detailed masonry work cover the upper floors.

“Landmarks would go nuts about that, because they love the Bolan’s building,” Schiller said. “It’s a unique building Downtown.”

Millcraft plans to work with the landmarks foundation to determine which buildings have historic value, said Lucas Piatt, vice president of real estate. He termed the company’s plan “very conceptual” beyond the URA-owned properties.

“We’re going to work with (foundation president) Art Ziegler, and of course talk to him about what’s historic and what’s not historic,” Piatt said.

Andrew Conte can be reached at or (412) 765-2312.

Images and text copyright © 2006 by The Tribune-Review Publishing Co.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633