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.”

Click here to read the full release.

May 23 marked a reception and ribbon cutting for the much-anticipated opening of the new Center for Sustainable Landscapes at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Phipps is already known as the world’s first LEED certified public garden. Today Phipps takes intelligent building beyond the gold and platinum standard to a whole new level: a facility that will generate all its own energy with renewable resources, capture and treat all of its water on-site, and use resources efficiently and for maximum beauty.

Molly Steinwald is Phipps’ director for science education. Following a presentation about Pittsburgh’s green building leadership at last week’s Intel International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF), Steinwald spoke briefly with ImaginePittsburghNow.com about the educational opportunities available to students and the public at the center. You can hear her comments in the video below.


You can also watch Phipps’ own 10-minute video about the center here.

Pittsburgh is the new center of American energy, with expertise, innovation and thousands of jobs across a portfolio of resources. Learn more at PowerOfPittsburgh.com.

Ben Kamber

Bill Flanagan sits down with Jeremy Waldrup, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, to discuss the state of downtown, the urban core of our region. Using seven major economic indicators, the report provides an in-depth investigation of the business, retail, and housing markets, including new developments, relocations, and expansions, including Market Square, one of downtown’s great successes in 2012.

Entrepreneurs have been a vital part of Pittsburgh’s economic comeback, strengthening our workforce and generating countless opportunities in medical research, technology, business, and more. The Entrepreneur of the Year program, now approaching its 26th year, is one of the most prestigious award programs of its kind in the nation. Lynette Horrell, Managing Partner, Ernst & Young, and Kevin Pickels, Program Director of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and also a partner at the firm, discuss the significance of the awards program, to be held June 22.

Bill Flanagan speaks with some of the candidates for Ernst & Young’s 2012 Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. In this edition, we hear what their businesses are about, what motivates them as entrepreneurs, and why they are choosing to build their business in the Pittsburgh region.

From the Duquesne Club in downtown Pittsburgh, Lynette Horrell and Kevin Pickels of Ernst & Young announce the finalists for the 2012 Entrepreneur of the Year Award. The winner will be announced at a ceremony to be held on June 22 at the Wyndham Grand Hotel. To find out more, visit www.ey.com.

Our Region’s Business” airs Sundays at 11 a.m. on WPXI-TV. Hosted by the Allegheny Conference’s Bill Flanagan, the 30-minute business affairs program is co-produced with Cox Broadcasting. The program is rebroadcast on PCNC-TV at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sundays, and at 3:30 p.m. Mondays. It also airs Sundays on WJAC-TV (Johnstown-Altoona) at 6 a.m. and WTOV-TV (Wheeling-Steubenville) at 6:30 a.m.

Bill Flanagan

One of my favorite stories of urban transformation in our region is in the east end of Pittsburgh, where East Liberty meets Larimer, Point Breeze and Shadyside. After a failed urban redevelopment effort in the 1960s, the neighborhood declined from one of Pittsburgh’s hottest retail and entertainment spots to one of its most distressed communities. The downward spiral looked to be endless as the broader region struggled to recover from the loss of its industrial base in the ‘80s.

Except… the people who lived there never gave up. In fact, they came together in one of the most dynamic, community-level public-private partnerships anywhere in our region. Community groups like East Liberty Development, Inc., partnered with Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, Walnut Capital and other for-profit entities, and even the big universities just a few miles away. Somehow they managed to attract Whole Foods to the neighborhood – in part because the location was just across the railroad tracks from landlocked Shadyside. The success of that development encouraged AAA West Central to relocate its headquarters to the old Motor Square Garden Building and Home Depot to build a store at the former Sears site. And, in the most ambitious effort of all, they set out to rehabilitate the old Nabisco bakery on Penn Avenue into Bakery Square.

You can get a feel for how it happened and what they had to overcome by watching this excerpt of a video produced for Walnut Capital. (Story continues below.)

Today, Bakery Square is 100 percent leased, home to Google and UPMC’s Technology Development Center. It’s been joined by a Trader Joe’s and a Target. But more than the big national brands, what’s really exciting is the “café culture” that’s returning to the neighborhood in the form of startup companies, restaurants and street-front retail. There’s a co-working center on Penn Avenue called The Beauty Shoppe that encourages entrepreneurs to take the risk of starting a business by offering quality office space on a month-to-month lease. And new homes and apartments are under construction.

The neighborhood is poised to take an even bigger leap in the not-too-distant future. The developers of Bakery Square are planning Bakery Square 2.0 across Penn Avenue on the site of the former Reizenstein School. The mixed use development will feature a combination of office and residential development. As Pittsburgh’s “innovation engines,” Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC are all landlocked in Oakland. As they expand into adjoining neighborhoods, they’re driving demand for new housing options to complement the rich older architecture of the area. East Liberty Development, Inc., has acquired an entire block of buildings in the traditional retail district on Penn Avenue with plans to build a multiplex movie theater and street-level restaurant.

What really sets East Liberty apart, though, is the cooperation and collaboration that has made all of this possible. Developers have been willing to partner with community groups; a city urban redevelopment authority with resources and vision to helped put the pieces together; universities and a health system willing to take a chance on a neighborhood in transition before the transition had really begun, and bankers willing to invest in rebuilding communities. It’s a showcase for the Power of Pittsburgh to come together to reinvent itself – whether in a city neighborhood or as the region as a whole.

Steve Bodnar

THE RESULTS ARE IN! Check out the winners of Intel ISEF here.

I had the privilege, and I sincerely mean it was a privilege, to be a judge in the Environmental Science category at the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) this week in Pittsburgh.

The schedules were grueling, discussions in the judge’s quarters were often…let’s just call them passionate, and the task of deciding which one of two equally deserving projects was, in fact, superior, was almost as difficult as saying tris(2,2’-bipyridyl)ruthenium(II) dichloride before your morning coffee.

But, now after the rankings have been finalized and the last long-winded professor has rested his case (and exhausted everyone’s patience), there is no doubt how creative, how engaging, how dedicated and how inspiring these young men and women are. I overheard on more than one occasion that faith in future generations has been restored. At least somewhat.

Judging guidelines were typical of what you would expect at a science fair: creativity, methodology, clarity, etc. But, what stands out is the real-world applicability the projects have. These students are not counting drosophila flies, dissecting frogs or making baking soda volcanoes. They are helping to solve some of today’s most pressing and complex environmental issues such as land reclamation, waste pharmaceuticals in our waterways, advancing the use of bacteria as a catalyst for oil degradation and employing nanotechnology to develop astoundingly sensitive air monitors. Some projects would not be out of place in a university’s graduate program laboratory.

Not to be outdone by the diversity of the projects, the diversity of the students was striking. It’s uplifting to see four students standing together, all with different skin colors, all dressed differently (although the young men’s suits were universally two sizes too large), all with different customs talking and laughing as if they’ve been friends for years.

I read in the media that today’s young women aren’t interested in science. I don’t know the exact ratio of female to male finalists, but a quick glance around the project hall only strengthens my belief in the adage that you can’t always believe what you read. At that impressionable age the interest is there —  it’s time to focus our efforts on sustaining it through college and beyond.

A theme often repeated throughout the day of interviews was, “Reward the best, encourage the rest.” While most of the students at the fair won’t win an award or receive a scholarship offer, it’s important to note they are previous winners of regional and state level competitions. The best of the best. I am humbled to have had the opportunity to interact with them.

Bonnie Pfister

It’s been energizing and exciting to encounter the more than 1,500 students from 65 nations gathered in Pittsburgh this week for the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF), continuing May 18 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center downtown.

Intel ISEF is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition, in which young scientists compete for more than $4 million in prizes and scholarships. Today (May 17) the public can visit all day. Students — including seven teams from the Pittsburgh region — will be displaying their exhibits from 10 a.m until 2 p.m.

Check out the video below as students gather and encounter a “rock star” in microbiology, Nobel Laureate J. Michael Bishop. He’s one of seven Nobel Prize winners — as well as dozens of science and engineering heavy-hitters from the Pittsburgh region — judging the competition this week.