Downtown

"So go downtown, things'll be great when you're/Downtown, no finer place for sure/Downtown, everything's waiting for you"

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership is hoping sentiments like that from the old Petula Clark song will resonate with tech, startup, and other companies longing for a change of scenery.

At its annual meeting Wednesday, the PDP rolled out a campaign designed to entice companies to open offices Downtown during a time when the trendiest spots seem to be in the Strip District and other parts of the East End.

"Everything Points You Here" will rely on traditional aspects like advertising in local business media as well as a digital campaign and an online brokerage tool kit to help real estate agents sell the merits of a Downtown location.

"Downtown has an incredible culinary and bar scene, and a place that offers unmatched access, beautiful historic structures as well as spaces with the finest amenities," PDP president and CEO Jeremy Waldrup said in a statement. "We can satisfy all your needs, on budget, right here in Downtown Pittsburgh."

For more than a century, the Golden Triangle has been the headquarters for innumerable companies, including current Fortune 500 firms like Kraft Heinz, U.S. Steel, PPG and PNC Financial Services Group.

But in recent years, a growing number of businesses, such as tech firms like Apple, Uber, Argo, AI, Facebook and Google have gravitated to the Strip District, Lawrenceville, Oakland, Bakery Square in Larimer and Shadyside, or other parts of the East End.

The PDP campaign, undertaken by the Gatesman communication firm, which itself moved to the central business district last year, aims to make the case for Downtown, from its transit connections, to its cultural attractions, to its vibrant restaurant scene.

It comes at a time when there is some debate in the local real estate community as to whether companies - tech in particular. which seems to prefer the fringe - will eventually move into the central business district.

On the pro side is Jeremy Kronman, vice chairman of the CBRE Real Estate firm. He sees "glimmers" of tech migrating to the Golden Triangle with firms like Microsoft opening an office in Liberty Center and Elite Transit Solutions inking a deal for space in the Frick Building.

Tech companies have been moving into downtowns in other major markets. It's only a matter of time before it happens here, Mr. Kronman maintained.

He noted that real estate companies like Shorenstein Properties, the One Oxford Centre owner he represents, and M & J Wilkow, owner of the 11 Stanwix and 20 Stanwix Street buildings, have invested heavily in them to provide the types of amenities attractive to tech tenants and others.

With Downtown holding nearly 60 percent of the city's commercial office space and tech responsible for the majority of growth in office space demand, "the two of them have to meet. They can't avoid each other," Mr. Kronman said.

"It would make sense that the fastest growing demand will go where the deepest supply is," he said. "That's happening in other cities in the country, and it's overdue to happen in Pittsburgh."

On the skeptical side is Dan Adamski, managing director of the Jones Lang LaSalle real estate firm.

He said tech companies and others are drawn to the Downtown fringe by the surrounding amenities, the residential population, parking, the availability of newer space and proximity to the central business district.

"As companies expand into Pittsburgh, are they going to be interested in a 1980s office tower in the CBD, or a trendy new building in the Strip District or East Liberty? As the CEO of Burns & Scalo often states, "new buildings win," he said.

"While we don't count the CBD out, it is a matter of being competitive and being able to check the boxes for what these companies are looking for to attract the right talent. We need a higher level of CBD product to compete with the trendy neighborhoods.

Mr. Adamski cited Downtown's historic Union Trust Building as one example of a building that has gone from largely vacant to highly competitive. It has attracted companies like TrueFit, Nokiea, Carnegie Learning and the Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney law firm.

"The name of the game right now is recruitment and retention - unemployment is low, population growth is stagnant and job growth is steadily increasing. For companies' growth strategies to succeed, they must weaponize their real estate to serve as a recruitment tool instead of simply an expense to be incurred," he said.

According to the PDP, the marketing initiative came about after discussions in late 2017 with Downtown property owners who identified needs. 



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