Promise of reimagined riverfront

Amid a crumbling road along an aging rail line, a very different Allegheny Riverfront is shaping up in the Strip District.

From 19th to 27th streets, the construction of nearly $200 million in new development is underway. It promises to bring a dense mix of offices and apartments that will stretch to the Central Business District when it’s all completed in the next few years.

One development that’s seen strong interest is Oxford Development Co.’s 3 Crossings, a $130 million, mixed-use project totalling 375,000 square feet of office space along with a parking facility. Companies that have committed to leasing space at the site include tech giant Apple Inc. and Rycon Construction Inc.

Earlier this month, Burns White announced it had leased a 105,000-square-foot space along Railroad Street at 3 Crossings. Burns White is expected to occupy a new building called Riverfront East to be constructed next year. The law firm will employ as many as 150 employees there by 2017.

The Burns White announcement came as the construction of Oxford’s 300-unit Yards apartment complex is ongoing in the background between 26th and 27th streets. It is expected to be ready for occupancy next spring.

“My expectations were high and actually we’re just about where we thought we’d be,” said Steve Guy, CEO of Oxford. “It was a great time to choose to do what we chose to do back in 2012.”

Oxford isn’t the only company with designs on development projects along the Allegheny Riverfront.

Last month, Cleveland-based NRP Group LLC won approval from the Pittsburgh Planning Commission to build the 365-unit Waterfront Place apartments between 19th and 21st streets on property owned by the Buncher Co. Construction is expected to start on the $60 million project next spring.

NRP and Oxford’s projects join the nearly 400 apartments of the established Cork Factory Lofts and a companion project, bringing the potential for a few thousand people to live along the riverfront in the next few years.

Other projects simmering in the vicinity include a potential hotel next to the Consumers Produce Co. building at 21st Street and the rest of the master planned Riverfront Landing, which the Buncher Co. is pursuing on nearly 50 acres of largely open land between 11th and 21st streets.

They’ll do so along a riverfront trail that will extend to downtown, with a 90-foot setback through 3 Crossings.

Don Orkoskey, chairman of the board of Neighbors in the Strip, a community development company, said it will be a very different setting because the neighborhood’s riverfront is currently largely hidden.

“We love to see the new residents,” he said. “It’s incredible to see what that will do.”

It’s a very different environment than what Chuck Hammel, principal of Pitt Ohio Express, started with when he was working to redevelop the Cork Factory Lofts years ago.

Providing Oxford with much of the land used now for 3 Crossings, Hammel ran down the area’s redeeming qualities: no bridges or tunnels, flat land on the water and its rich history.

It all adds up to a brand new neighborhood happening quickly.

“It’s going even faster than I expected,” he said.