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Somera Road Buys Out Partners for SouthSide Works in Pittsburgh, Plans $167M Development and Renovation

The $37 million capital improvement plan for SouthSide Works in Pittsburgh includes updating the town square area.

PITTSBURGH — Somera Road Inc., a value-add investment and development firm based in New York City, has taken full ownership of SouthSide Works in Pittsburgh’s South Side neighborhood. The adaptive reuse project was formerly the site of J&L Steel Works and now houses approximately 280,000 square feet of retail space, 180,000 square feet of office space and 85 apartments. The project opened in 2004.

Somera Road plans to undertake more than $37 million in capital improvements and invest $130 million in new development at the project, including 230 apartments and 200,000 square feet of office space fronting the Monongahela River.

Another key feature of the new development plan is the conversion of the SouthSide Works Cinema to a 77,000-square-foot creative office space dubbed Box Office. Somera Road plans for the new office space to house about 500 office workers. The Kansas City office of HOK Architecture will design Box Office, which Somera Road will begin work on this summer.

Rendering of Box Office, the new office space coming to SouthSide Works that was formerly a movie theater

“The cinema’s grand entry, high ceilings and efficient useable floorplate, coupled with steel and glass improvements and the adaptive reuse appeal, creates a unique office conversion opportunity Pittsburgh hasn’t seen before,” says Jon Reeser, Somera Road’s vice president of acquisitions and head of its Pittsburgh office.

Somera Road also plans to develop a “container park” along the river and trails to draw passersby into the project. Container parks are typically restaurant and retail concepts that are selling their goods out of shipping containers. Somera Road has engaged Baltimore-based CanaDev and Pittsburgh-based AE7 for initial work on the design and concept for the container park, as well as the project’s lawn area and dog park.

Rendering of the container park coming to SouthSide Works

“Somera Road is showcasing every aspect of what makes the city so special and bringing it to life,” says Ian Ross, principal and founder of Somera Road. “By creating access, supporting innovation and creatively activating every aspect of SouthSide Works, we’re creating the city lifestyle experience that Pittsburgh deserves.”

Somera Road began investing in SouthSide Works when the firm acquired defaulted loans in October 2018 before taking the title of the property in June 2019. The firm replaced its undisclosed capital partners on the project and now has majority and controlling ownership.

Renovations are currently underway at SouthSide Works’ existing office space, including to the common areas and restrooms. Somera Road is also upgrading residential units with new stainless appliances, new flooring and an improved lobby.

Strada Design was the architect of the renovations, which also included improving the project’s town square, green space, wayfinding, public art and dog and children play areas.

Somera Road has engaged CBRE’s property management team and its office and retail leasing teams to assist with new leasing initiatives. Two new office leases have recently been signed, and six new retail leases have been executed and will be announced soon, according to Somera Road. The company also plans to boost the food and beverage and entertainment options at SouthSide Works.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) has approved the development agreements of riverfront parcels to Somera Road.

“The URA is excited to see a new, more active vision for the SouthSide Works’ existing retail and public spaces, and we are looking forward to working with the Somera Road team to further the city’s community and economic development goals through the development of the remaining riverfront parcels,” says Greg Flisram, executive director of URA.

Since its inception, Somera Road has acquired more than $1.5 billion in real estate totaling approximately 16 million square feet across 49 markets. The company’s current portfolio includes properties in Nashville, Memphis, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, among others.

— John Nelson

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