Sky High – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Interactive


A market stabilizer

SSome believe that the UPMC’s move into the building has been a godsend not only for the tower itself but also for the city center as a whole. “It’s a good thing they came. This not only helped stabilize the rental in this building, [but also] it helped stabilize the entire downtown market, ”said McLaughlin.

According to UPMC, it has 4,500 construction workers. It occupies nearly 1.1 million square feet of space and 29 floors, including the 62nd – the former home of the Top of the Triangle.

“This has always been the crown jewel in the office building.”

Gregg Broujos, real estate firm Colliers International

The 28,000 square foot restaurant, with panoramic views of Pittsburgh and its rivers, closed in 2001 after 30 years of operation. It was the preferred place to ask the question, the wedding that followed, anniversary dinners, business lunches and after-work meetings.

Mr Harrington said the decision not to renew the restaurant’s lease turned out to be an infamous moment in the building’s history.

“I’m still sorry about this,” he said.

But having the available space “was a big key for us to land at UPMC a few years later,” he said.

“It was probably the most valuable real estate in downtown Pittsburgh.”

Water and antifreeze

Ddespite the many changes, the tower still retains some of its unique features – not just its 2.3 million square foot footprint, nearly double that of any other downtown skyscraper.

Its Corten steel columns survived the Homestead factory that made them. They age naturally, with each surface developing a protective coating against rust that requires no maintenance.

The 18 columns are fireproof by filling them with a solution of water and antifreeze which circulates without mechanical assistance. In total, they contain about 400,000 gallons of water and 625 tonnes of potassium carbonate antifreeze, according to a building data sheet.

US Steel built it that way, Mr Harrington said, because he wanted to showcase Corten steel.

“He achieved what they were trying to do,” he said.

On the rooftop, approximately one acre in size, along with the floor plans, the one-of-a-kind helipad was in use until the early 1990s.

“Roderick used it a lot. It was one of the coolest things to be on the roof when the helicopter came in or took off or was in the square when we took off, ”said Mr. Harrington. “It’s kind of a unique, cool feeling that I haven’t experienced anywhere else.”

The roof was a subject of fascination for the people of Pittsburgher, with at least one engagement (and probably more) going on there. A decade ago, a former Post-Gazette editor suggested turning it into a “park in the sky”, but it never gained popularity.

In total, US Steel Tower has 11,000 windows, 56 elevators (two up since opening) and nine escalators (one down).

At one time, the building had a dozen telephone booths. They are all gone. But oddly enough, one of the most popular features these days are the small phone rooms on the 35th floor where employees can have private conversations.

“It seems to be very popular with the next generation here,” Mr. Harrington said.

A diagram of the building. (Courtesy of US Steel)

Find your mojo

TThe building’s occupancy rate is currently in the upper 80% range, he said, with around 40 tenants in total.

Despite the real estate downturn caused by COVID, leasing “is dynamic right now. We see the light at the end of the tunnel. It has increased considerably.

While much of the commercial activity has shifted more to the downtown core over the past decade, Mr Harrington believes Grant Street, a long-standing electricity corridor for businesses and the government will regain some of its momentum.

He sees the redevelopment of the former Civic Arena site nearby, where the First National Bank is building a 26-story headquarters, playing an important role in that regard. This structure is expected to cost $ 240 million, nearly five times the $ 50 million it took to build the US Steel Tower five decades ago.

While Jeffrey Ackerman, managing director of CBRE, no longer sees US Steel Tower as an “upscale Class A building,” he said he has stood up to the competition.

One thing he had to overcome over the years was the corporate culture that prevailed at the time of its construction.

For example, he said, at one time on the floors that housed engineers there were two toilets for men and one for women because the majority of engineers were men.

“I think he’s aged well. It is very well built and the owner has continued to make the necessary improvements, ”he said, adding that the building still works well for large companies.

“One thing I miss is the Top of the Triangle restaurant,” added Mr. Ackerman. “It was such a great convenience to be able to get on the elevator and go up to the top floor.”

Edwin H. Gott, second from left, then chairman of the board of directors of US Steel, presses the button that activates a crane to lift the last beam to the top of the US Steel Building on October 24, 1969 From left to right: Robert Tyson, then chairman of the company’s finance committee; FB Speer, then president of the company, and John H. Long, then president of American Bridge Co., a manufacturing division of US Steel. (Kent Badger / Pittsburgh Press)

CBRE has been a tenant of the building since 1998. But that will change soon. He plans to move in August, possibly to One Oxford Center. The real estate company leaves after losing its longtime job in renting US Steel Tower. Cushman & Wakefield / Grant Street Associates is now the rental agent.

Despite competition from other downtown properties and those on the Strip and elsewhere, Collier International’s Mr. Broujos believes the venerable skyscraper will continue to hold up.

“The property management there is the best in its category. If a company wanted a top-notch business address in a top-notch building, US Steel Tower has always been at the top of the list, ”he said.

Whatever the future, the strapping tower – built of steel and for steel – is unlikely to ever lose its distinction as Pittsburgh’s tallest.

“There just isn’t the demand today for such a large building in Pittsburgh,” McLaughlin said. “But you should never say never.”

Mark Belko: [email protected] or 412-263-1262.

Web design: Tyler Pecyna ([email protected])


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