Chicago-based M & J Wilkow, Ltd. has considered a mix of options for converting the former Art Institute of Pittsburgh building downtown, a circa-1925 structure that totals 155,000 square feet. 

Since the Art Institute moved out a few years ago, M & J Wilkow has pondered the prospects of putting a hotel into the building as well as taking advantage of the fact that it has windows on all four sides for apartments or condos. 

But M & J Wilkow opted to return it to its past use as a traditional office building, drawing on a familiar strategy the company has used in other cities to take advantage of a classic building's appealing architecture by outfitting it with current finishes and amenities so that it will appeal to contemporary office tenants. 

Working with downtown-based Strada Architecture LLC, M & J Wilkow has invested $11 million in a total gut job and remodeling of the building, work undertaken by Shannon Construction that's nearing completion. 

Marty Sweeney, a senior vice president for M & J Wilkow, reports that there's been more tenant interest than there is space in the building, adding up a total of 425,000 square feet represented by the space needs of the companies considering 420 Boulevard of the Allies. 

He expects 420 Boulevard to lease for around $28 or $29 a square foot in a property for which naming rights on the broadly visible building are also available. 

Sweeney emphasized that the strategy is to offer a broad range of amenities -- a fitness center, bike storage and showers, kitchens, and ample common areas, a rooftop deck and perhaps a local brewery he's been in talks with -- so that companies will think less of what they'll pay than what they'll get for their money. 

"We want rent to be the third or fourth question they ask and not the first," he said. 



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