PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s called the Terminal Building – a very long building that stretches for blocks along Smallman Street in the Strip District. Most know it as a popular place for wholesale produce.
But city officials think it’s time for something different. In a vote Thursday afternoon, the Urban Redevelopment Authority started that change.
“We’re going to need to reposition the produce platform for other types of uses,” says Rob Stephany, executive director of the URA.
Stephany says Mayor Ravenstahl and city planners think it’s time to move wholesalers out of the city-owned building.
“They do a great job at what they do, and they are part of a wholesaling industry in this area can be anywhere as long as it’s in the general area.”
But moving the produce companies out does not sit well with Sam Patti, who has operated his wholesale coffee operation, La Prima Expresso, in the Terminal Building for 22 years.
“I have really strong feelings about this. I really love the Strip District. I love the idea that it’s sort of the grocery or the food area of the city, or market district, so I think we have to be really careful on how we impact it.”
City planners say the long-term goal is to unite the Strip District with the Allegheny Riverfront through housing and retail stores.
“The intent is to really convert the historic produce terminal and the 55-acres of surface parking into an extension of the Strip District and the Cultural District, really to revitalize this place with maybe a thousand units of housing over the next 10 years,” adds Stephany.
The URA has just approved the Buncher Company to manage the building and build housing units on the river’s edge.
“What’s the fascination is with doing housing on the riverfront,” asks Patti. “Do we need more housing? Does it need to be right here? But above and beyond everything else, we need to really maintain this as the market area.”
The city insists it will try to keep the produce people somewhere in an area but it could be as far away as Lawrenceville.
Under the deal approved Thursday, Buncher will lease the property for five years with an option to buy.
In a statement, Buncher said its “intent is to preserve the integrity of the property while breathing new life into the neighborhood.”