Tweaks help move Downtown Pittsburgh tower project along

Another new Downtown high-rise is a step closer to construction.

Members of the city Historic Review Commission approved plans Wednesday for a proposed 18-story office and hotel tower on Forbes Avenue between Wood Street and Market Square after developer Millcraft Industries altered the design.

The 5-0 vote came over the objections of Downtown property owner David Bishoff, who complained about the tower’s proximity to the square and the 10-tier above-ground parking garage that will be part of the structure.

«That square will be impacted ’til death do us part if this building is built,» he said.

Millcraft altered the design of the tower after Mr. Bishoff, some members of the commission and the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation raised concerns about the project’s impact on the square and surrounding buildings two months ago.

The Washington County developer reduced the height of the building by six feet, made changes to the louvers to be used on the garage so that the cars parked in it would not be visible from the street, and took steps to break the building into smaller elements rather than having it appear as one solid mass.

In the end, the changes produced «the best product and the most elegant design we could offer for the city of Pittsburgh,» said architect Sam Luckino of Arquitectonica in New York.

Several commission members liked the changes, saying they gave the building a lighter, cleaner feel. The high-rise, in essence, will feature two towers, one 18-stories high for offices and the parking garage and the other 11 stories for the hotel. There also will be street-level retail space.

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While Mr. Bishoff panned the project, Nick Nicholas, a Market Square property owner and restaurateur, testified in support of it. Calling the building beautiful, he said compromises had to be made to make the project economically feasible.

The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation dropped its objections, describing the revised design as «more elegant» than the original and more in context with other buildings in the Market Square historic district.

While the foundation wishes that «more space could exist between the new building and historical buildings of Wood Street and Fourth Avenue and that the garage were not as high as it’s being proposed,» it understands the difficulties in making a building economically viable, general counsel Anne Nelson said.

The project now will go before the city planning commission for approval. Millcraft hopes to break ground on the $81.8 million high-rise, up in price from $76.6 million, in the fall and have it completed by early 2014.

Also Tuesday, the commission approved the demolition of 218 Forbes and 228 Forbes to clear the path for the tower.

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