The Pittsburgh Planning Commission Tuesday approved the design and construction of a new 285,000-square-foot headquarters for U.S. Steel Corp. The project overcame design concerns expressed earlier by planning commission Chair Christine Mondor and others to win a near unanimous vote.
All the commissioners in attendance voted in favor of the plan except for new commissioner Sabina Deitrick, who derided the design of the building as too suburban in style.
The design approved Tuesday was slightly different from an earlier version. "The building massing has changed and the articulation of the building entrance, which was a problem," said Mondor. "Now, we know where the entrance is."
The building is slated to be constructed by Clayco, using a design by Chicago-based Forum Studio, a Clayco subsidiary. It will be the first commercial project to be erected on the cleared 28-acre site of the former Civic Arena in the Lower Hill District.
Construction on the new office headquarters for U.S. Steel (NYSE:X) is expected to begin in the second half of this year and be completed in two years. U.S. Steel's lease in the U.S. Steel Tower expires at the end of 2017.
When the designers of the new U.S. Steel headquarters first presented the project to the Pittsburgh Planning Commission at a briefing two weeks ago, Mondor criticized the design as one that looked like it could be anywhere and wasn’t befitting a legacy project kicking off a transformative redevelopment.
Chris Cedergreen, chairman of Forum, said his firm explored more than 50 different design considerations with U.S. Steel in order to reach a solution that worked for both the company and the Pittsburgh Planning Commission, acknowledging the concerns.
“There were concerns that were raised about the horizontality of the building and how to break the building down into smaller component pieces to respond more to the desires of the master plan,” he said. “We listened very carefully and we worked through a lot of different issues and worked very closely with U.S. Steel.”
The headquarters design includes five stories of 50,000-square-foot floors, which would rank among the largest downtown.
Cedergreen also pointed out after the meeting that U.S. Steel seeks a building that expresses its corporate identity as the project’s sole office tenant, a goal which can be at odds in the multitenant context of the central business district.
“There has to be a blend,” he said.
Mondor expressed hope for more design improvements as the project continues.
“I think we still need an ongoing conversation to make this building the best building it might be,” she said.
Christopher McKee, president of Clayco Realty Group, noted how the project has at least 10 different parties weighing in on the design and suggested some minor alterations could be still be made.
“Fundamentally, I would say the design is pretty set,” he said. “But I would expect there would tweaks made.”
He emphasized getting such final approvals in place are key for Clayco reaching a final lease agreement with U.S. Steel to get the project under construction.
“These approvals are critical to a final agreement,” he said.