Oxford seeking to build off strength of downtown office market with expanded plan in Strip
– Reporter- Pittsburgh Business Times

The board of the Urban Redevelopment Authority voted to ratify a grant application for $500,000 that Oxford Development Co. requested as a part of a dramatically expanded plan the developer has for 11 acres in the Strip District.

Representatives of Oxford were not in attendance as the URA board voted to approve a grant application seeking $500,000 in funds from the Allegheny County Gaming Economic Development Fund Grant for various infrastructure needs.

Oxford only recently brought the office expansion plan to the URA and the application was completed on Friday, May 2. Officials for the URA indicated that Oxford is also pursuing grant funding from the state for a parking garage included in a project that has expanded from an original proposal for a 299-unit apartment complex to also pursue 250,000 square feet of flex office space.

Robert Rubinstein, the acting executive director of the URA, said Oxford sees a basic demand for more office space.

“I think it’s really looking at the office occupancy rates of the Strip District and the Central Business District,” he said.

He added that Oxford has specific tenants under consideration for the project but declined to divulge them.

State senator and URA board member Jim Ferlo called the Oxford plan impressive. But he also suggested it needs to be considered in conjunction with other nearby plans, specifically of the Buncher Co., whose plans to develop on its open land in the Strip is under delay as the city considers alternative proposals for the Strip District’s produce terminal.

“I think these developers need a level playing field,” he said.

Kevin Acklin, chairman of the URA board, added that another issue all developers in the Strip — and throughout much of the city — will need to consider is a revised flood plain by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Acklin said the revised flood plain could alter design standards, such as disallowing first-floor residential development and also raise insurance costs.

He said how much the revised flood plan will impact development has yet to be determined.

  • Tim Schooley covers retail, real estate, construction, hospitality, arts and entertainment, and government. Contact him at tschooley@bizjournals.com or 412-208-3826.