5 Adaptive Reuse Projects in Pittsburgh

Post by 
Jenna Gnieski

Historic buildings have found a new place in the modern world. Instead of demolishing or foreclosing old buildings, adaptive reuse projects extend and preserve the life of buildings that may not have served a beneficial purpose to the community in modern times. 

In this blog, we’re detailing five adaptive reuse projects in the city of Pittsburgh that you should know about. 


What is Adaptive Reuse?

Adaptive reuse is a term used to describe a range of construction or development activities that improve existing building conditions and extend the building’s life. It’s essentially reusing an old building for a purpose other than which it was originally designed. Similar to how you might upcycle an old piece of furniture to fit your design style, adaptive reuse does the same...just on a larger scale!

There are many benefits to repurposing an already existing building. Building adaptation can provide considerable environmental, social, and economic benefits, which are important for sustainability efforts. As cities like Pittsburgh grow and develop, it’s important now more than ever to stay on top of sustainable practices. In doing so, we reduce a large portion of the environmental impact from construction and other demolition waste. Instead of tearing up the environment, efforts are going right back into it to revitalize and regenerate it. 

Not only does adaptive reuse preserve the architectural integrity of the building, it also updates and optimizes the building’s performance for modern demands. This allows for the integration of current technological needs so buildings can stay up-to-date with the tech savvy people of the 21st century. 

Now that you know what adaptive reuse is, let’s get on to the buildings you should know about in Pittsburgh.

1. Stables Lofts

Formerly Allegheny City Stables (opened in 1895)

In an effort to revitalize Pittsburgh’s North Side neighborhood, we at Birgo Realty have been tackling a project that will make Pittsburgh an even greater place to live. Our luxury apartment building, which will soon be completed this year, was once a home for municipal horses and carriages. Over the past few years, we’ve transformed this landmark to take on a new role in this city’s history. 

While the historical integrity and architecture remain intact, a luxury apartment awaits. The updated building renders premium finishes and modern amenities to create an unrivaled spin on a historic space. Allegheny City Stables Lofts will bring about more economic and social development to the area and we cannot wait to have you be a part of its history!

A throwback of Pittsburgh's North Side neighborhood, feat. Allegheny City Stables' horses!

2. The Strip District Terminal

Formerly the Fruit Auction & Sales Building (opened in 1929)

The Pennsylvania Railroad Fruit Auction & Sales Building (now that’s a mouthful to say!), now known as The Strip District Terminal, opened its doors to the public in 1929. The original building was used to serve the tri-state area as a produce distribution hub and functioned as the economic heart of the Strip District for more than 40 years.

Fast forward to present day, this sweet building is now home to several commercial and retail stores. Through adaptive reuse, this project is bringing more life (and color!) to Pittsburgh’s Strip District neighborhood. In the literal sense, they’ve turned lemons into lemonade!

You can read an in-depth version of The Terminal history here.

3. Heinz Lofts

Formerly the Heinz Factory Buildings (opened in 1888-1930)

Right along the Allegheny River sits the old Heinz Factory buildings. Between the years of 1888 and 1930, the Heinz Company purchased more than twenty buildings as part of their industrial campus. Occupancy varied from building to building so in 2004, the company eventually sold their dormant buildings to developers. 

Through adaptive reuse, the Heinz Factory buildings found a second life as loft-style apartments. After renovation, the once-forgotten area combines old and new and serves as a reminder of the innovation happening within Pittsburgh.

4. Wilson School Apartments

Formerly the Wilson School (opened in 1930)

The Wilson School Apartments building is another property in Birgo’s portfolio - it also happens to be an adaptive reuse project! Located in McKees Rocks, these apartments previously served as an elementary school for generations of kids.
When Wilson School was built in 1930, McKees Rocks was a bustling community. At the time, there were four local elementary schools, but as the area saw a decline in population, the need for multiple schools went away. The Wilson School is fortunately the one school building that still stands and serves as a reminder of the integrity and culture of the McKees Rocks community.

Students who attended Wilson School recently spoke about their fond memories in an article written by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Adaptive reuse here is not only an example of reusing a space, but preserving the history and fondness it holds in the hearts of many. 

Also, how chic would it be to live in an old school?! Now that’s a fun conversation starter.

5. Mattress Factory

Formerly the Stearns & Foster Mattress Factory (opened in 1900)

The iconic and nationally acclaimed art museum in Pittsburgh’s North Side has a reason for its name. Ironically enough, it actually used to be a Stearns & Foster mattress warehouse that was built in 1900! Seventy five years after the warehouse was built, a woman by the name of Barbara Luderowski acquired the property and developed it into a non-profit cultural organization now called the Mattress Factory. Over the years, it has expanded into other buildings and also doubles as a residence for artists who are installing their work in the museum. From mattress production to a space for artists to sleep while they install their art, you could say everything came full circle!

P.S. The Mattress Factory is just a short walk from Stables Lofts. When you live in the North Side you’ll be in the center of arts and culture!

Concluding Thoughts

Adaptive reuse projects are everywhere in Pittsburgh if you look closely enough. The list above is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to discovering Pittsburgh’s history. Adaptive reuse projects can be all around the Pittsburgh area. These projects repurpose historic buildings to meet modern society’s needs and standards. Adaptive reuse projects reduce waste from new construction and development and keep the historic charm and architecture intact. This type of development keeps Pittsburgh, well, Pittsburgh!

If you’re anything like us at Birgo, we love when buildings have historic charm and feel. It just feels more homey. Imagining the people and stories of those who have lived, visited, or worked in a building prior to adaptive reuse is what makes it all the more special.

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