Commercial real estate’s best-kept secret

If you listen closely, you’ll hear Pittsburgh buzzing with innovation and success. But, what drives it? Growth, investment and commitment.

The city that was once considered a steel capital of the world is bubbling with potential, tapping into new industries. It’s never been a better time to invest in Pittsburgh.

At M & J Wilkow, we’ve been investing in Pittsburgh for years. In fact, we’ve made eight acquisitions here over the last six years. So what first drew us to the Pittsburgh market, and what continues to attract national real estate attention today? It’s a mix of stable economy, growing industry mix and local talent pool.

Betting on The Waterfront

Unlike most cities post-recession, Pittsburgh bounced back from the 2008 recession quickly after experiencing only minor setbacks. This economic strength was one of the reasons we got curious about Pittsburgh — we wanted to see what else it could do.

It was in 2012 that M & J Wilkow made its first Pittsburgh investment: The Waterfront. Covering 265 acres of flat land and with 800,000 square feet of shopping, entertainment and restaurants, The Waterfront had a lot of potential — and has delivered for us in spades.

The Waterfront has gone from 83 percent leased to 98 percent leased since our acquisition, and our tenant mix and customer profile is more diverse as a combination of major tech companies, startups and energy companies continue to move into the region.

National attention and investment

Six years ago, local developers and investors owned most of the city. Today, it’s quite the opposite. As companies flock to Pittsburgh, national investors have followed. Even as M & J Wilkow invests across the country — literally from Hawaii to the Carolinas — Pittsburgh has become our largest market.

What’s driving the deserved attention? Pittsburgh’s economy continues to evolve toward powerful industries. The market has had strong “meds and eds” for years with Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and its medical center, among others.

What’s continuing to gain investor attention is the forward-looking growth in technology and energy across the market. High-profile tech and artificial intelligence companies like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center and now Argo AI all occupy space in and around downtown Pittsburgh. And, with Shell’s $2 billion cracker plant underway, we anticipate future development of more cracker plants and petrochemical companies in the region.

Pittsburgh’s barbell demographic is another point to pay attention to. As the city grows up, it will become one of the youngest and most educated areas of the country — continuing to attract tech, energy and enterprise opportunities to the market.

It’s clear that Pittsburgh has an exciting future ahead when it comes to its economy, development and job growth. And as interest in the city continues to heighten, investors must act quickly with trusted partners with deep expertise to expand their portfolio with in-demand properties.

 

Martin Sweeney is senior vice president of Acquisitions and Asset Management at M & J Wilkow Ltd., a Chicago-based commercial real estate investment and management firm. Martin is responsible for M & J Wilkow’s growing Pittsburgh portfolio, which currently totals 2.9 million square feet. It includes The Waterfront; office towers 11 and 20 Stanwix (PNC Center); the 12-building 95-acre Penn Center East mixed-use complex, 420 Boulevard of the Allies; 275 Apex (Southpointe); and the Plaza at the Pointe shopping center in Robinson Township.