The Strip District is a neighborhood that appears to be in a state of constant flux. Modern office complexes like The Yards (the nickname for the Strip from many moons ago) house businesses like Bosch and Target’s corporate wing. They’re nestled in with upscale housing like the Cork Factory. Uber has a complex down in the Strip for their self-driving car unit.
The Strip District also has the old, grimy mainstay businesses that populate Penn and Smallman, the main commercial sector of the Strip District. Wholey’s, Sunseri’s, Penn Mac, and the like are a stone’s throw from new trendy restaurants. So no matter if a business is relatively new or relatively old, they’re open and contributing to making the Strip District the exciting hub of activity that it is today.
For the majority of people that drive down to the Strip, the main parking areas are along Smallman Street, either in front of the old Produce Terminal Station or in the rear of the building in the massive open air lots. Those people then make their way on foot via Smallman to Penn for most of their shopping. When they’re on Smallman, though, for years people have been greeted by vacant properties that are occupying prime retail real estate on Smallman — one at 1806 Pike Street (the very old name for the side street, but it’s located at the intersection of 19th and Smallman) and one at 1900 Smallman. Having these businesses be vacant for so long in such a vibrant area is like walking around with spinach stuck in your teeth — it’s not a great way to greet people.
As per the Allegheny County assessment page, the property at 1806 Pike, home for a short time to the restaurant called Carhops (as indicated by the signage still remaining in place) is owned by the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company. They bought it in 2006 for $350,000 from two gentlemen named August Galluse and Paul Crisanti. As per the 2017 assessment, it is currently valued at $211,900, so theoretically they’re underwater on it. However, I think they could easily make that original purchase price back, especially if the Produce Terminal gets re-developed as discussed. I can’t say that Penn Mac has been holding out on doing something with this property for the past 11 years in anticipation of making a windfall when the Produce Terminal gets renovated; that would be giving them way too much credit and visionary foresight.
The Point of Pittsburgh reached out to the Penn Mac company via email for any comment they may have on their plans for this property, but did not receive a response.
Likewise, the property at 1900 Smallman has been vastly underutilized for many years. Some businesses have popped in along Smallman Street, but have been either transient in nature or not the types you would think could occupy this prime section in the center of Smallman. This property was purchased by Mantia Digirolamo Properties LP back in 2008, but it was a paper transaction for $1, as it was purchased from Maurice A. Mantia to create the Limited Partnership. This property is valued at $1.26M by the same 2017 Allegheny County assessment.
The Point of Pittsburgh reached out to one of the members of the Limited Partnership, August Mantia, via letter for any comment they may have on their plans, but also did not receive a response.
This is America and you can’t force someone to develop a piece of property. But it appears as if both of these entities are acting as absentee landlords willing to let their prime real estate decay outwardly in lieu of installing a viable business. With the amount of time that has transpired during their respective ownerships, it’s most likely that nothing will be done until the Produce Terminal itself is re-purposed. This is especially disconcerting considering that one of the property owners, Pennsylvania Macaroni Company, is such a stalwart business on Penn Avenue. You would think they’d have the best interests of the Strip District at heart.