The creator of the Golden Triangle’s distinctive white octagonal One Oxford Centre tower will redevelop its property between Fifth and Forbes avenues, capping the 50th anniversary of the firm’s commitment to downtown Pittsburgh.

Oxford Development Company on May 24 announced that it will either redevelop and expand its current property at 441 Smithfield St. in accordance with LEED Existing Building certification, or start from scratch with a new construction of a 33-story office tower scalable to meet an anchor tenant’s specifications. Either design would feature Class A office space and upscale retail and restaurant space.

In either scenario, the site will be re-launched as 350 Fifth Avenue, contributing to the revitalization of the “Fifth and Forbes” corridor, said Steve Guy, President and CEO of Oxford Development Company. That corridor is now home to Piatt Place’s office, retail and residential center,  and by 2015 the world’s “greenest” skyrise with the Tower at PNC Plaza.

“Oxford wants to continue the renaissance of this iconic downtown corridor,” Guy said Thursday. “We are committed to an aggressive project start date [in late 2012] and construction schedule.”   More about the design options below. 

This investment in top office space underscores Oxford’s decades of faith and investment in downtown Pittsburgh as the region’s core as a great place to work, shop and live, said Barbara McNees, president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce.

“Oxford founder Eddie Lewis developed Oxford Centre between Grant and Smithfield streets in the early 1980s as part of downtown Pittsburgh’s ‘Renaissance II,’ ” McNees said. “Our region is fortunate to have business leaders like those at Oxford Development who are willing to take risks and do the necessary work to keep our urban core strong and vibrant.”

Oxford’s announcement comes as more and more companies are discovering – and in some cases re-discovering – the value of doing business downtown, said De Peart, the president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance. The PRA markets the benefits of doing business in southwestern Pennsylvania, and assists companies looking to relocate or expand here.

In the first quarter of this year, Class A office space vacancy rate was 6.9 percent downtown, compared to 21.2 percent in 2007. Last year, three of the five largest lease renewals and three of the five largest new leases that were signed were for downtown properties, from financial services giants to law firms to such information and communications technology innovators as Maya Group, ShowClix and Tiversa.

350 Fifth Avenue, Option 1

“These companies – and Oxford Development – are to be commended for their commitment to the region and their confidence in the real estate market,” Peart said. “We expect to continue to see high quality development and growth like this in the years to come.”

Peart also noted that another regional real estate leader, Elmhurst Group, broke ground this week on a 90,000-square-foot Class A speculative office building in Cranberry Township.

Oxford’s first option for 350 Fifth Avenue is a a new 33-story, 772,000-square-foot office tower designed by DLA+ Architecture & Interior Design.

The renovation option would feature 180,000 square feet of renovated Class A Office Space, open floor plans, a roof top deck and a complete upmarket redesign of the retail space with outdoor seating. It would be closely modeled after the Oxford conversion of the

350 Fifth Avenue, Option 2

former Horne’s Department Store into Penn Avenue Place.

Either redevelopment will bring back the iconic Pittsburgh intersection of Fifth and Smithfield, across from the “Kaufmann’s Clock,” Guy said.

“As the only local developer to develop two high-rise projects, our priority would be the new skyscraper,” he said. “However, our number one commitment is to participate in downtown’s renaissance. The reason to develop two options for the property is to create the best final project that would both add to the character and atmosphere of the Fifth and Forbes corridor and meet the market demands.”

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