Sunday, June 30, 2013

Fifth-Forbes, then and now.

Archived Post-Gazette article on funding for Fifth-Forbes redevelopment

Browsing through the Pittsburgh development discussion earlier today, I found a post regarding the initial push from then-Mayor Tom Murphy to redevelop the retail corridor of Fifth and Forbes Avenues in the heart of Downtown. At the time, Murphy had a vision of numerous chain retailers occupying the spaces fronting these streets; retailers such as Cheesecake Factory, J. Crew, 9West, as well as Macy's and Sak's 5th Avenue and Lord & Taylor, both of which are no longer located in Downtown.

Retail will only be successful if there is a market present to sustain it. The retailers that Murphy was trying to lure into Downtown were already prominent in suburban shopping malls. This kind of retail would probably not be successful because nobody will drive into downtown for shopping when they could go a relatively short distance to the mall and park for free.

Today, retail is thriving in this corridor, and I think it will only get larger. The rebirth currently taking place is mainly due to the rise of apartments and condos in the heart of the Golden Triangle. People are flocking downtown to live, and this is actually the trend in numerous other larger cities, especially Philadelphia, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Baltimore to name a few. Residents will add to a retailer's catchment area, making a retail operation more viable at a given location. Under Murphy's plan, as previously stated, the market was not big enough to sustain any large scale retail.

Circa 1998 Downtown's population was only a couple thousand.  Today, that number is estimated to have climbed to over 7,000 with more projected to arrive to live.  More apartments are either being planned or completed either as new buildings or as conversions of old office space.  Also helping the rebirth of retail is the rise of the hotel.  In the last five years alone, we have seen a handful of hotels open in the area including a Fairmont Hotel in 3 PNC Plaza.  Several more hotels are in the planning stages including an Embassy Suites in the Oliver Building, and a Hilton Garden in a new complex called The Gardens.

With the way things are progressing for Downtown, Pittsburgh's central business district could hit 10,000 within the next few years, and according to this December 25, 2012 Triblive Article, hotel demand is only going to get stronger...