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Wed January 11, 2006 - Northeast Edition
CEG



PITTSBURGH (AP) PNC Financial Services Group Inc. plans to build a $170-million complex that will include a 23-story building for offices, a 150-room hotel and at least 30 condominiums.

The project is located in the city’s Fifth and Forbes corridor, a stretch of two downtown streets lined with empty and decaying storefronts. The development, known as Three PNC Plaza, will be a catalyst to downtown revitalization, James E. Rohr, PNC’s chairman and chief executive officer, said.

State and local government officials and others involved in the project agreed.

“By redeveloping a series of vacant buildings to create more office and residential space, we can restore a section of Pittsburgh that is crucial to the long term success of the city,” said Gov. Ed Rendell, who was on hand to present state funding.

Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato said redeveloping the area “is key to the continued resurgence of this region.”

The project will be a natural link to the city’s cultural district, which lies a couple blocks away, Rohr said. It’s also within walking distance of the city’s professional sports stadiums.

The condominiums would add to other recent downtown residential projects, which have been slower to come to Pittsburgh than other cities.

Other projects include a 151-unit apartment complex in the cultural district and an 18-story, 82-unit condo project along the Monongahela River.

“No city can be a vibrant, dynamic place without people living in its heart,” Rendell said. Residents living downtown will shop and eat downtown and take advantage of cultural offerings, he said.

PNC plans to invest $122 million in the project. The state is contributing $30 million and the city, Allegheny County and the Pittsburgh Public Schools are contributing $18 million through tax increment financing, which allows a portion of the additional tax money from developed property to be used to pay off debt incurred by the project.

PNC pledged to create 1,000 new permanent jobs over the next three to five years as part of the project.

Rendell also presented $3.75 million in state funding for another downtown project.

Millcraft Industries Inc. recently said it would convert the vacant Lazarus-Macy’s store into 75 housing units, including 19 penthouses, plus office and retail space. The $49-million project will be called Piatt Place, after Jack Piatt, Millcraft’s chairman.

“We’re leveraging a tremendous amount of private investment,” Rendell said, calling the state funding for the two projects a “cheap investment.”

“I think we will mark this day as the day when downtown Pittsburgh turned around for good,” he said.

The Reed Smith law firm will move its headquarters into Three PNC Plaza, said Gregory B. Jordan, its managing partner.

Reed Smith will occupy approximately half the tower’s 361,000 sq. ft. of office space and Jordan said he hopes the firm will continue to grow. Reed Smith employs more than 600 people in Pittsburgh.

Demolition on 13 properties owned by PNC is expected to begin in 2006 and the project is expected to be finished in 2008, the city’s 250th anniversary.