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URA is ready to sell; Millcraft is ready to start

Pittsburgh Post GazettePrice tag is $2.5 million for G.C. Murphy’s parcel where apartments slated

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
By Mark Belko,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority is poised to sell old G.C. Murphy’s store buildings and other properties to a Washington County developer for $2.5 million — another key step in the redevelopment of the downtrodden Fifth and Forbes corridor, Downtown.

Millcraft Industries Inc., doing business as Downtown Streets Pittsburgh LP, intends to convert the former store and the adjacent properties into shops and apartments targeting middle-income wage earners and renting from $750 to $1,500 a month.

“We’re finally getting it off the ground, so we’re excited,” said Lucas Piatt, Millcraft vice president of real estate. “We’re ready to start digging.”

URA board members are expected to vote tomorrow on a proposal to sell six Fifth Avenue parcels, including three that make up the Murphy’s store, to Downtown Streets Pittsburgh.

Downtown Streets is a subsidiary of Millcraft. Mr. Piatt said Ira Morgan, a friend of late Mayor Bob O’Connor, no longer is part of the development team.

The purchase price represents a bargain of sorts for Millcraft — the URA paid $3.83 million for the buildings, all of which were purchased over the last four years. Mr. Piatt said the $2.5 million is in line with the values provided by an appraiser hired by the URA and Millcraft.

Millcraft originally had looked at converting the Murphy’s store to condominiums and apartments, but switched to all apartments in order to take advantage of federal tax credits available to developers of historic structures, thus lowering redevelopment costs.

The apartments would target $40,000 to $50,000 wage earners and offer a more affordable alternative to the luxury condos under construction in the Golden Triangle, including those at Piatt Place in the former Lazarus-Macy’s building, Millcraft’s other Downtown project.

Millcraft now estimates that the cost of converting the Murphy’s store will run $30 million to $40 million, up from the initial $21 million estimate.

The URA board also is expected to act tomorrow on a proposed agreement with Millcraft on 10 other authority-owned parcels on Forbes Avenue and Wood Street in the Fifth-Forbes corridor.

They are to be developed in phases by Millcraft, and would include a $50 million, 18-story Forbes Village high-rise on Forbes near Market Square that is to offer a mix of condos, apartments and shops.

As part of the action, Millcraft would have exclusive control over the properties for an unspecified period, with redevelopment proposals to be made at a later date.

URA Executive Director Jerome Dettore could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Once the Murphy’s project gets rolling, there will be two major redevelopments occurring simultaneously on Fifth Avenue in the heart of the Downtown retail corridor.

The other, across the street from the Murphy’s construction, is the $170 million Three PNC Center skyscraper that will house offices, a hotel and luxury condos. It is expected to open in 2008. Construction has started.

Also tomorrow, the URA is expected to sell three parcels, one on Fifth Avenue and two on Market Street, to a subsidiary of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation for $257,000.

The foundation intends to convert the vacant structures into upper-floor apartments, with street-level retail.

(Mark Belko can be reached at or 412-263-1262. )

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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