By Barbra Murray, Contributing Editor
Pittsburgh—Regional Industrial Development Corp. continues its push to put Lawrenceville, Pa., on the map as a leading robotics hub with the groundbreaking for The Tech Forge, a 64,000-square-foot spec industrial project just a stone’s throw from Carnegie Robotics, a spinoff company of Carnegie Mellon University’s prestigious National Robotics Engineering Center in Pittsburgh.
The Tech Forge, the building of which is being spearheaded by general contractor Franjo Construction, will be a flex facility, featuring both high-bay and office space—but that’s not all. Designed by Desmone Architects, the green building will offer amenities not oft found at industrial properties, such as bike parking and a roof-top deck.
The demand for high-tech industrial space in metropolitan Pittsburgh is real. As noted in a recent report by commercial real estate services firm Avison Young, “Pittsburgh’s industrial market remains relatively stable despite changes in the traditional manufacturing sector and energy markets. While these changes have dealt a blow to US Steel, Allegheny Technologies, Range Resources and Consol Energy, the emergence of high-tech users, such as Uber and Carnegie Robotics, will continue to provide a high level of optimism beyond 2016.”
Indeed, optimism abounds. There’s a great deal of local support for the $20 million Tech Forge endeavor, and it shows in the numbers. With the assistance of financial advisor Rise Community Capital, RIDC secured $13 million of New Markets Tax Credit allocation from Mid-City Community CDE, Pittsburgh Urban Initiatives and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp. for the project.
Tenants at The Tech Forge won’t be lonely; they’ll be surrounded by a bevy of robotics companies in the area, many of which make their home in facilities developed by RIDC. The firm began its pursuit of transforming Lawrenceville and environs into a tech cluster in 2002, when it acquired a 14-acre former steel manufacturing site and commenced the creation of the RIDC Lawrenceville Technology Center. More property acquisitions and redevelopments in metropolitan Pittsburgh followed, with RIDC previously or currently providing space for the likes of RedZone Robotics, vision guided vehicles developer Seegrid Corp. and Carnegie Robotics.
And there’s more to come from RIDC. Timothy White, a senior vice president with the company, told Commercial Property Executive that “RIDC is planning another tech-focused building in the Hazelwood section of Pittsburgh to accommodate additional robotics-related activities.”