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By Dan Fitzpatrick

Post-Gazette Staff Writer

BioSpace Development Co. founders Mary Del Brady and Richard Pearson want to convert an old Strip District steel mill into a 400,000-square-foot biotechnology campus, along the Allegheny River. 100-year-old plant last occupied by the Pitts­burgh Flatroll Co.

Brady, a co-founder of South Side biotech­nology company Tissuelnformatics Inc., and Pearson want to convert the 10-acre, 287,000-square-foot plant into new offices and labs for local biotecllology firms. Shops and a river­front park are also possibilities, Pearson said.

Brady and 'Pearson are negotiating a joint venture with the site's owner, David Kowals­ki, a Cranbel Ty businessman who purchased the buildings earlier this year. The plan is for BioSpace Development Co. to have a part ownership in the site, Pearson said. We're working through the document right now," he said.

A big hurdle, though, is financing.

The first phase, which BioSpace wants to begin in spring 2002, would cost $12 million, Pearson said. BioSpace, a spinoff of Tissue­Informatics, cannot close on its deal until it raises enough money to start the project. If it can do that, BioSpace would rebuild the plant in stages, perhaps using part of the complex for offices and part as short-term storage space.

"We are not going to eat the whole ele­phant in one bite," he said.

If BioSpace makes its deal work in the Strip District, it would end the company's two-year search for a biotechnology campus. 􀂖Fbr awhile, the company consid­ered a warehouse complex on the south Side, near Station 􀀖uare. For now, though, that project 1s "on bald,"· Pearson said. Brady and Pearson, along with several other partners, also have an agreement to buy a 30,000-square-foot building on the South Side known as the MacIn­tosh-Hemphill building. That space could be used to showcase the type of custom-designed office suites that BioSpace would use in the Strip District complex, complete with moveable walls and floors.

If the Strip District project hap­pens, it could kickstart other develop­ments in the Strip and Law­renceville. Much of the riverfront property from the 31st Street Bridge to 51st street is under the control of only a few property owners, including The Buncher Co., the Tippins family, The Rubinoff Co. and Kowalski.

City officials have been trying to persuade some of these owners to reconvert in­dustrial property into other uses. One area of interest is the 14-acre city pound, which is between 28th and 31 streets. It is the site closest to BioSpace's proposed biote,::hnology campus, ·and the city currently uses it as a pound, automotive repair shop, 911 center and rodent control center. It is surrounded by rusted cars lacking windows, tops or tires;

City officials would like to move the pound elsewhere in the city, freeing riverfront property for more development.

One person interested in the site is developer Damian Soffer, who has had conversations with Kowalski and BioSpace officials about a larger, mixed-use development along the riv­er. When the city puts the pound up for sale, Soffer wants to be involved. "They know I am here," he said.


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