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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Landmark Pittsburgh Hotel to Get $ 15 Million Renovation

The Pittsburgh Hilton Hotel and Tower has been purchased by Boca Raton Hotellier Shubh Hotels, and the new owner is planning some much needed improvements to the downtown hotel.

According to the Tribune Review, Shubh plans to make $15 million worth of improvements on top of the $28 million purchase price.

Improvements would include interior renovation ( Changing some smaller rooms into suites, upgrading room decor, lobby decor and the restaurant ) as well as some much needed exterior renovation.

The Hilton Hotel has always been a prominent part of the Pittsburgh skyline, and a posh destination in the heart of Downtown. However, the aging building exterior has long been a poor backdrop to the spectacular Point State Park and it's dated interior has made it a B-list hotel destination for many years.

The hotel sits in a prime location with beautiful views of the point and the rivers, and should be a central hub for visitors to the city.
With the right exterior and interior improvements, the hotel will become an important piece of the downtown renaissance.

The Hotel and it's red sign are pictured directly behind the fountain in the above photo. Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance.

Read More at the Tribune Review
Friday, May 19, 2006

Pittsburgh's Future

I am an avid reader of Harold Miller's "Pittsburgh's Future", a terrific blog that focuses on economic strategies to transform the Pittsburgh region.

The May 18th post - Another Source of New Companies for the Pittsburgh Region - is an informative look at the many corporate research facilities in the region. Mr. Miller makes the point that Pittsburgh Universities are not the only potential source for technology spin-off and commercialization.

It appears that our region has a wealth of corporate research and development centers, and these centers are a great potential source for new Pittsburgh businesses.

Please visit Pittsburgh's Future and check out this and other posts.

UPMC Planning for Expansion in Baum/Centre Corridor

The Pittsburgh Business Times reported last week that UPMC is considering expanding it's Shadyside Hospital Complex. The complex houses the Hillman Cancer Center, and is located in the thriving Baum/Centre corridor.

A spokesperson for UPMC believes that the addition will be around 300,000 s.f. and will house new beds and more research space to the nearly-full Hillman Center.

The existing center was completed three years ago, and has had a profound impact on the East End neighborhoods that border Baum Boulevard and Centre Avenue. Since it's opening, the corridor has seen the construction of a new hotel, the expansion of the EastSide retail complex, a new retail center ( designed by yours truly ), and several renovations to existing commercial space.

As I have stated here many times before, I believe that Pittsburgh's hospitals and universities will be the catalyst for Pittsburgh's next "Industrial Revolution". These institutions have the potential to transform the region by leveraging their medical and research success into business and manufacturing success. It is important that any expansion to the UPMC facility be carefully planned to encourage as much private investment in the corridor as possible.

Read More at The Pittsburgh Business Times
Thursday, May 18, 2006

Mayor Chooses Millcraft for Downtown Development

The Pittsburgh Business Times is reporting that Mayor Bob O'Connor has chosen Millcraft Industries, Inc. to develop the long planned "Fifth and Forbes" retail district downtown. Millcraft is currently developing the former Lazarus department store into retail, office and luxury condo space.

Millcraft plans on developing over 20 URA owned properties in a several square block area in the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh. Their plans include a European style grocery store, a 1000 seat live music venue, retail space and approximately 200 new rental and condo residential units.

O'Connor chose between Millcraft and Pittsburgh developer Ralph Falbo, after Washington D.C. developer Madison Marquette dropped out of the running last week.

The Millcraft proposal includes the most residential units and largest private investment of the two remaining proposals. In addition, the project will receive no public subsidy, no tax-increment financing, and no existing businesses would be displaced. ( The City will likely give the properties to Millcraft for free, or for a greatly discounted price. )

We have come a long way from the initial proposals for the corridor that used massive taxpayer financing to fund an out-of-town master developer. These plans called for the wholesale demolition of many historic downtown buildings, and the displacement of nearly all of the existing merchants.

The Fifth/Forbes corridor has been in dire need of investment for decades.
Pittsburghers have waited patiently for Downtown development to take shape,
and it seems that it is about to be transformed.

Read More at The Pittsburgh Business Times
Monday, May 15, 2006

Downtown Developments

If you didn't see Sunday's Post Gazette - click here.
The cover of the Region section was headlined - "Downtown is Humming". The article was a quick graphic look at the proposed developments downtown.

Here is what I found interesting ( and promising ) about the list of coming projects:

  • The number and quality of residential units suggests a relatively strong market for urban living.
  • Pittsburgh Universities are playing a large role in populating downtown.
  • There is a healthy mix of rental units and condominium projects.
  • Pittsburgh's Cultural District continues to be a national success story. This once blighted red-light district has become one of the nation's premier cultural destinations. The August Wilson Center for African American Culture will be a welcome modern addition in the heart of the district.

Overall, I am encouraged by the "scattered" nature of the developments. There is no citywide "master plan" that is dictating the timing or placement of these developments- only the market. There is certainly a role for URA and City Planning to play in Downtown's revitalization, but it is not the role of "Master Planner". So far, the mix of Downtown developers have taken their roles as stewards of Pittsburgh's central core very seriously- nearly all of the developments are appropriate for the city and market driven. City government should resist the urge to act as master developer and focus on reducing the barriers that residents and business owners face when considering downtown as their home.

To date, Downtown development seems to be progressing organically which is how city's are supposed to develop.

photo courtesy of The Post Gazette and The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance

Monday, May 08, 2006

Kiplinger magazine Ranks Pittsburgh 9th "Smartest Place to Live"

Financial Magazine poll finds Pittsburgh a "hidden gem with distinctive neighborhoods, tree-lined streets, glittering skyscrapers, upscale shops and a diversified economy."

I came across this on CNBC this morning.

Kiplinger Magazine sought to find it's readers ideal cities, ones that are "fun, vibrant and affordable."

According to the article, the magazine "found the best places in the nation that combine those elements, sent our writers for a firsthand look and then chose our top ten. "

The Kiplinger poll takes into account what readers said they wanted most in a city, and then ranked cities based on empirical data.

The criteria consisted of a number of factors including cost of living, cost of housing, quality health care, low crime rate weather, education (primary, secondary and higher), cultural amenities, transportation, proximity to family, economic vitality and variety of cultural and recreational activities available.

Visit Kiplinger Magazine to read more about Pittsburgh, and to see the entire list.
Photo by Jennifer Pearce - (c) american workhorse, llc
Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Check Out "The Conversation"

I found a post over at "The Conversation", a blog with many posts and strong opinions about the current state of Pittsburgh.
The premise of the post is that he and I are opposites in the Pittsburgh blog world -He is a cynical realist, and I am an optimist with unconditional love for all things Pittsburgh. ( The post title "Paging Dr. Pangloss" is a reference to a character in Candid who is not only irrationally optimistic, but who distorts the reality around him to justify his optimism. )

I posted a response that disagrees with his opinion of Proud Pittsburgh, but recognizes the need for both cynics and optimists.

Please check out his post, and my response. I promised to read his post often, and I encourage my readers to do the same.

You can find "The Conversation" here at

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