Station Square's Freight House Shops may get 'significant' update, first since in 1979

A $60 million apartment development might not be the only big change coming to Station Square.

Owner Forest City Realty Trust also is considering a “significant redevelopment” of the Freight House Shops, a one-time train shed that has been the main source of Station Square’s retail and dining options over the past 38 years.

Jim LaRue, Forest City asset manager, revealed the possible Freight House changes Monday in discussing the 315-unit apartment project to be built on Station Square’s east side on land now used primarily for parking. The city planning commission will be briefed on the housing development at its meeting Tuesday.

Forest City is hoping the new housing — the first at the South Side riverfront mixed-use complex — will be a driver for the redevelopment of the Freight House, which hasn’t undergone a major overhaul since its opening in 1979.

“The residential component there will be a very good selling point for retail tenants, specifically restaurant tenants, for the Freight House Shops,” Mr. LaRue said.

While plans are still in the early stages, Mr. LaRue said Forest City hopes to start the redevelopment either late this year or in early 2018.

“We’re just trying to bring the Freight House Shops up to date and that piece of Station Square up to date,” he said.

The remodeling likely will include a redesign of the interior spaces, as well as an update to Commerce Court, which houses offices and some retail and restaurants.

Forest City had considered the idea of replacing the Freight House Shops, located on the west side of Station Square, but ultimately decided against it, Mr. LaRue said.

“We want to maintain the integrity of the Freight House Shops, probably reconfigure it, and maintain the aesthetic value of it,” he said.

“We’re going to do some structural improvements and probably make it more open.”

The company will work with current tenants as part of the redevelopment, he said. Among other users, it is considering chef-driven restaurants and locally sourced food venues as possible new tenants.

Arthur Ziegler, president of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, which developed the old railroad property into Station Square in the 1970s, said Forest City has talked to him about the proposed redevelopment, but has not shown him any final plans.

The foundation sold the property to the Cleveland developer in 1994 for $25.5 million.

“They have a unique structure for marketing purposes. It’s just a question of how to best use it,” Mr. Ziegler said of the Freight House Shops. “It’s a marvelous structure. There’s nothing like it in the city.”

Over the years the Freight House Shops has undergone a number of changes. Most of the original retailers have gone, replaced by restaurants, entertainment and even the Bradley School, a two-year career institution.

The long-delayed apartment project is expected to start this summer after Dallas-based Trammell Crow Co. secured $3 million in state funding to help get the development rolling. At one time it had hoped to have the first apartments finished by summer.

According to planning commission documents, the development will be built on 5.5 acres and include two five-story mixed-use buildings, retail and amenity spaces. There also would be 346 parking spaces, 112 spaces for bike parking, and a reconfigured riverfront trail.

Forest City has entered into a ground lease with Trammell Crow for the development. Trammell Crow has a buyout option in 2020.

“It’s been a long time in coming,” Mr. LaRue said. “I’m personally very excited to see this happening at Station Square. I think it will prop up the rest of the development. I think it will help us with our efforts to redevelop the Freight House Shops.”

The apartment development is the latest addition Forest City has made to Station Square over the last 17 years. Others have included a $25 million expansion of the Sheraton Hotel and a $25 million Bessemer Court project that included new restaurants and a dramatic 100-foot-wide fountain that shoots jets of water up to 60 feet and is synchronized to play off colored lights and music.

Mark Belko: or 412-263-1262.

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