This isn't Jack's first trip around the development block in the 'Burgh. His first project was the hugely successful 941 Penn Avenue in the Cultural District downtown. Aside from sheer size (941 Penn is an exclusive 17 unit building, whereas Otto boasts 59 units), a new neighborhood and new demographic make the two projects very different. As Jack puts it, Otto presented a new challenge due to "more moving parts" in the large and historic building.Originally the Phoenix Brewery, Otto's history stretches back to when the Strip District was the main port-of-call for Pittsburgh, with most products, including beer, imported and exported via boat. Unloading and loading on the shores of the river made the Strip a convenient place to set up shop and manufacture many of the goods and services that kept the economy of the city strong. After the Phoenix Brewery closed, the building became the Otto Milk Dairy, which was one of the largest in Pittsburgh. As Jack tells it, he knew the first time he walked through the building that it would make a "great project in a great location".
Great location indeed. My love affair with the Strip District is well known. It seems that every time you blink, something new and exciting is brewing there. The Pittsburgh Public Market, only a few short blocks from Otto, has become wildly successful, and they seem to announce a new participating vendor every week. Right By Nature Market is right across the street, and you can get some of the best, locally brewed joe right around the corner at 21st Street Coffee.
In true ""if you build it they will come" fashion, Jack is bringing the neighbors to the neighborhood. In fact, Kathy Wallace of RE/MAX Select Realty, listing agent for the project, likens the building to a "vertical neighborhood". By February, the Strip will be 50+ households stronger as the new residents close and begin to move in.
What set Jack down the road of developing in Pittsburgh? He is a bit of a renaissance man it turns out. After ten years in medicine, and a stint in software, Jack came to Pittsburgh as an owner of a Max and Erma's franchise. Like so many of us, he fell in love with the city and became convinced it would be a good place to get into the development business. Why Pittsburgh for Jack? "The people", he says. In fact, Jack credits the city itself as one of the reasons his projects have been so successful. An interesting and particularly analytical approach to the business doesn't hurt either. "I enjoy working with people and solving complex problems and situations. Development is just like medicine in that you have the patient and it is your goal to work with them to provide a positive outcome." Speaking from personal experience, I can attest that Jack is a very "buyer-centric" developer. In my day job, I have had the pleasure of working with both Jack and Kathy, and their combined philosophies of honesty, communication and hard work have propelled the project to the success it is seeing today. Of the 59 units, 45 have sold; truly unparalleled. As of this article, three of the remaining 14 are on reservation awaiting signed sales agreements.
So what's next for Jack? "Show me something interesting and I am ready to get going. I would like to do something easy this time such as starting from the ground up."
Prices on the remaining units at Otto Milk begin in the low $200,000's. For more information contact Kathy Wallace or Erin Marton (yep, that's me!), RE/MAX Select Realty, 724-933-6300.