Three groups of developers have pitched plans for converting the 72-year-old Family Court building at 18th and Vine Streets into a luxury hotel, raising expectations for another big investment in an area undergoing major change.
In plans submitted to the city Wednesday, each group was aligned with a hotel operator. They are:
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, teaming up with Logan Square Holdings, a limited partnership that counts the Goldenberg Group of Philadelphia among its five investors.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts, working with Philadelphia’s Dranoff Properties and HRI Properties of New Orleans.
Kimpton Hotels, aligned with P&A Associates of Philadelphia and the Peebles Corp. of New York City.
Welcome to the correction.
That is Geoffrey Leah’s way of saying that the old is being used again inside the former Mellon Bank on Smithfield Street, the ornate building controversially stripped of much of its grandeur when it was converted into a Lord & Taylor department store more than a decade ago.
The new owner, PNC Financial Services Group, is hoping to restore some of that splendor — piece by piece, in some cases — as part of its plan to reuse the city historic structure as a call center.
“What we’re trying to do is take the bones of the building and keep the architectural and historic significance, and do whatever we can to not disrupt the original structure in any way,” said Gary Saulson, PNC executive vice president and director of corporate real estate.
While PNC has no way of fully restoring the majestic four-story, open air bank hall with its marble Ionic columns — Lord & Taylor turned the structure into four floors of department store retail — the bank intends to incorporate as many original architectural features as possible into the new design.
From one window, Alan Kashi can watch a 33-story glass skyscraper being built before his eyes. From another, he can drink in the elegant lines of Three PNC Plaza, the 23-story tower that opened a few years ago. He can walk a couple of doors from his property to a former five-and-dime store that harbors apartments, restaurants and retail.
Now it’s his turn to join the Downtown renaissance.
Mr. Kashi is restoring the storefronts, replacing windows and making other improvements to the buildings he manages at 254 and 256 Fifth Avenue and 445 Wood Street as part of a new program to help rejuvenate older buildings Downtown.
“We’re revitalizing Downtown. This is a very major corner, Fifth and Wood. And it’s going to really help a lot to do what is necessary to make Downtown what it should be,” he said.
A two-block Downtown stretch of Penn Avenue is undergoing a mini-renaissance.
New stores are opening, at least three developers have plans to build more residential units, and one school just moved in and another is expanding — all in 800 and 900 blocks of Penn.
“It seems like all the little gaps are starting to get filled in now,” said John Valentine, executive director of the Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corp.
The two blocks near the David L. Lawrence Convention Center weren’t shabby by any stretch, not with a Courtyard by Marriott hotel, the Penn Garrison and several bars and restaurants anchoring the area.
The large commercial building at 420 W. Grant St. has been reinvented in the past two years as the Wash House after the closure of EMJAY Display, a maker of point-of-purchase store displays.
The 14,000-square-foot building has become an incubator of small start-up businesses, including a construction company, two woodworkers and a ballroom dance studio.
Yet one thing was missing in the building’s renewal: city zoning approval.
On Monday, Mitchell Jureckson received a variance of required parking spaces and a special exception for a fitness studio from the Lancaster city Zoning Hearing Board for the Wash House.
For 35 years the hulking, empty Pomeroy’s building symbolized the decline of Easton’s downtown.
Once a flourishing department store, the property was shuttered in 1977 and sat untouched on Northampton Street just a few dozen yards from Centre Square.
But a $4 million rehab that created 22 apartments, retail space and a restaurant has reclaimed what Mayor Sal Panto Jr. called the city’s white elephant. New renters arrive June 1, the building’s first tenets since the original “Star Wars” movie was released.
William Vogt and Mark Mulligan, partners in VM Development and owners of Pomeroy’s, said the project is a risk, but they believe Easton is ripe for their mix of high-end apartments and large retail spaces. Mulligan said six of the apartments, one- and two-bedroom units with granite counters, wood flooring and 14-foot ceilings, have been leased without much marketing.