A future loft district takes shape


This map shows one of three possible road alterations. This option would connect Behan Street and Jabok Way, both currently dead ends, to W. North Avenue.

Allegheny West, the smallest neighborhood on the Northside, could get a whole lot bigger in terms of residents.

That’s because the Allegheny West Civic Council is mulling over a study to transform their industrial district north of W. North Avenue into a loft district. Many of the brick and masonry structures that served as factories or warehouses are in need of renovations, and the community group would like to redraw their current designation as a City of Pittsburgh Historic District to encompass this industrial zone.

Although many of the details are still being worked out, the neighborhood group contracted Maynes Associates to compile a study of the area and make development recommendations that they hope to accomplish in coming years.

The study proposes to convert at least four existing industrial buildings into lofts, a move that would bring a dose of urban trendiness to the neighborhood known mostly for its well-maintained Victorian homes.

These buildings include the former Allegheny Stables Building on W. North Avenue, the former Hipwell Factory across the street, the Value-Added Foods building on the corner of Behan Street and Galveston Avenue, and at least one more building.

The study suggests that these loft or multi-residence apartment buildings feature first-floor parking to counteract the issue of a flood of new residents to the neighborhood. As it now stands, Allegheny West is at capacity for available residential parking.

In an attempt to expand pedestrian traffic and safety of the area, the study also calls for a new road to either connect the dead ends on Behan Street and Jabok Way or to additionally connect them with W. North Avenue.

The last major proposal calls for similar streetscape improvements that the civic group has planned or completed on Western Avenue. These include introducing new parklets along several streets and one large community garden with individual plots on Behan Street, planting trees on both sides of streets, and brick sidewalks and vintage street lighting.

Two of the industrial buildings on North Avenue will likely be the first major district improvement.

The Hipwell Factory

This former flashlight factory may be sold as early as this fall to business owner Mitchell Schwartz, he said.

Schwartz has been looking for a site to relocate his Knoxville-based SMART Solution Technologies, a dealer in communications equipment to schools and businesses, and is in talks with holding company that owns the building.

“My wife and I always wanted to live in a loft, so we thought instead of renting a place in something else’s building, we decided to build our own,” Schwartz said.

The property includes a total of five buildings, two of which Schwartz hopes to convert into new headquarters for his 22-employee company. He would convert another one into lofts for sale, another one into lofts for rent, and keep one of the buildings for him and his wife, Elaine Stone, who would be in charge of the property development.

“We looked around in the Strip District, but that’s not a neighborhood. The Northside is,” said Schwartz.

The Allegheny Stables

After having a potential buyer fall through in the spring, the Northside Leadership Conference, in tandem with Re/MAX Select Realty, is marketing this historic 20,400 square foot building that used to be home to the city’s work horses.

“Our objective was to establish a blank canvas for a developer or individual to step in and bring the space to life,” said Nancy Noszka, the Conference’s Director of Real Estate.. “The high ceilings, arched windows and brick walls make the building suited for residential lofts, a modern live/work space or artist studios.”

So far the building has received interest from several parties, including one couple interested in converting the entire building into a single residence.

Three possible designs drawn up by architect Jerry Morosco demonstrate several uses for the three-story building.

Two of the designs show either 10 or 12 single-story apartments on the second and third stories, with over 5,500 square feet of space on the first floor for commercial or other uses. Space next to the building would be used for 18 parking spaces.

A third rendering projects six two-story lofts on the upper floors and room for 13 parking spaces on the first floor.

Including acquisition costs of $325,000 and major renovation costs, Noszka said the total cost could exceed $3 million. But because of the historic nature of the building, the Conference is seeking to raise $1 million through government and foundation grants to help a future buyer with redevelopment costs.

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