Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Kaufmann's Second Chance: a Pittsburgh Icon Goes High Tech

The former Downtown department store gets a high-tech makeover as it transforms into 311 luxury apartments as well as a hotel and retail space.




Photos by John Altdorfer

 

A beloved piece of Pittsburgh history is now at the forefront of high-tech, high-style living.

The iconic Kaufmann’s department store Downtown has been transformed into 311 new luxury apartments equipped with voice-command technology that developers say is the first of its kind in the city. Through a partnership with Amazon, residents of Kaufmann’s Grand on Fifth Avenue can use the Alexa cloud-based voice service to control each unit’s surround sound, room temperature, lighting, televisions, window shades and more. 

“When we come into a market, we have to find what doesn’t exist,” says Michael Samschick, president of Core Realty, the Philadelphia-based company that owns the building. “We went to every apartment building and said, ‘What does not exist in Pittsburgh? What can we bring here that’s different?’ That’s when we came into the automation piece of it.”
 

 
Units are equipped with voice-command technology that can be used to control lighting, temperature and surround sound.
 

Core Realty purchased the building in 2015, after the former occupant, Macy’s, announced plans to close its Downtown location. Macy’s had been in the space for nine years, but most Pittsburghers associate the building with its occupant of more than a century, Kaufmann’s. The department store’s historic flagship location, known as The Big Store, opened in 1886 and underwent several extensive renovations during its long run before Macy’s took over the space in 2006. The cherished clock at Fifth and Smithfield remains, as both the store and the clock hold historic landmark designation from the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.
 


The open kitchen plans feature stainless steel appliances, cherry cabinetry and granite countertops.
 

In addition to the apartments, the 1.2-million-square-foot building also will be home to retail and office space and a 160-room EVEN Hotel set to open in the spring. Samschick says Core was drawn to the building’s bones, then, “almost immediately thereafter, it became, ‘What does that building represent? What’s the impact it had on Pittsburgh? How can we take that history and take it to another level?’”

All of the apartments, ranging from 427-square-foot studios to 1,059-square-foot two-bedrooms, allow residents to live a practically hands-free lifestyle. Everything from the lighting to the privacy shades to the coffee maker is voice-controlled. Residents can even make reservations for the rooftop tennis courts or order a meal from the hotel’s room service simply by speaking the request.

For those who prefer to be more hands-on, each unit comes with an iPad connected to the smart system. Residents also can control everything remotely via smartphones.
 


A workspace located adjacent to the kitchen is  enhanced by natural sunlight, plus views of Downtown.
 

“It’s as tech as you’re ever going to get in any type of living environment. It’s truly a different living experience,” says Samschick. “When Kaufmann’s was here, it was the largest retail building in Pittsburgh. It was the first with escalators and elevators. Now it’s the first to be fully automated. It went from ‘The Flintstones’ to ‘The Jetsons.’”

The space-age aspect isn’t the only thing drawing residents to Kaufmann’s Grand, where other amenities abound. In addition to the tennis courts, the building features a state-of-the-art gym and spa, an outdoor park in the center of the building, and a rooftop with a restaurant and bar deck overlooking an infinity pool. Rent prices range from $1,378 a month for a studio to $2,371 for a two-bedroom apartment, according to the Kaufmann’s Grand website.

“We look at this as a city under one roof,” Samschick says. “You can have everything you need here, from walking your dog to parking inside. You never need to leave.”
 The apartments make use of open-concept floor plans and floor-to-ceiling windows to create inventive yet serene living spaces. Glass walls separating the master bedroom and bathroom create the illusion of added space and feature voice-controlled privacy shades. A glass transom on the wall between the bedroom and kitchen lets in natural light.

“We like that natural light coming in to make it feel roomier, open and more expansive,” says Samschick.
 


 

A neutral palette of greys and whites coupled with hardwood floors and crown and base molding creates a clean, comfortable feel. An open kitchen features stainless steel appliances, cherry cabinetry and granite countertops. The peninsula bar offers seating, and a versatile space just beyond it can be used as an additional dining area, a workspace or simply as a spot to sit and take in the views. Residents of interior-facing units can look up to see the tops of the nearby city skyline or down to a glass atrium below. Exterior-facing apartments offer views of Downtown. If they need more than a view for entertainment, residents can use one of the two smart TVs that come with each unit — one in the living space and a second in the bathroom.
 


 

The neutral palette carries into the bathroom, though here it results in a more dramatic effect. Turkish marble tile striped in gray and white in a stretcher bond pattern covers the floor and shower and climbs up a quarter of the wall. A back-lit mirror above a sleek white vanity adds to the contemporary vibe.

Cutting-edge design choices do more than create a specific aesthetic — they are a reminder to residents that they are living in a space unlike any other.

“Everything you come into (in the building) will be tomorrow’s world in today’s space from yesterday’s opportunities,” says Samschick.  
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Hungry for Something Good, Pittsburgh? Where We're Eating in July

Lidia Bastianich Shares Her American Dream in a New Memoir

PM Dining Critic Hal B. Klein talks to the celebrated chef, restauranteur, television host and author about grandparents, foraging and the plight of refugees seeking a better life in the United States.

They Prayed to Our Lady of the Roller Coaster

Two local priests –– riding the Phantom's Revenge to promote Catholic Day at Kennywood –– create a viral video. Along the way they deliver a most unusual sermon.

The Homestead Artist with a Worldwide Reputation

Jesse Best maintains a presence in New York and Tokyo. But, he says, Pittsburgh has been 10 times better to him than any other place.

The 400-Word Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The fifth "Jurassic Park" film is fun. Empty, somewhat disappointing fun.

Local Brewery Resolves Trademark Dispute With Sass

After Pitt ordered Voodoo Brewery to stop production of its "H2P American IPA," the company relaunched the beer under a new name.

Sprout Fund Passes the Torch

50 Pittsburghers to receive $1,000 Legacy Award to carry on the nonprofit’s vision.

Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

A Broadway musical about the life and times of the Pittsburgh Pirates? The idea might not be as farfetched as you think.

Pirates Pitcher Steven Brault has Pretty Good Pipes Too

The Pirates reliever sang the national anthem Tuesday night before the Bucs hosted the Brewers at PNC Park. It's worth watching, especially for his teammates' reaction at the end.

Crime in the South Side Has Fallen Dramatically

Illegal activity plunged along East Carson Street following several new security measures.

Fired by City Paper — Charlie Deitch Won’t Be Silenced

The former editor of the Pittsburgh alt-weekly is creating his own "more inclusive" publication.

Czechoslovakia was Forged in Pittsburgh

Rick Sebak details how the establishment of the European nation began with a meeting Downtown.

Brick by Brick: Legos Go High Art

Made entirely out of Legos, the sculptures on the display at the Carnegie Science Center’s new Scaife Exhibit Gallery range from the whimsical to the otherworldly.

Mike Chen, Dean of the Chinese Kitchen

The owner of Everyday Noodles looks to encourage more regionally specific Chinese food in Pittsburgh restaurants.

MultiStories: Real Estate – The Machesney Building

Visitors can still ogle the lavish marble and bronze interior crafted to appeal to the original owner's banker and stockbroker tenants.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


They Prayed to Our Lady of the Roller Coaster

They Prayed to Our Lady of the Roller Coaster

Two local priests –– riding the Phantom's Revenge to promote Catholic Day at Kennywood –– create a viral video. Along the way they deliver a most unusual sermon.

Comments

Local Brewery Resolves Trademark Dispute With Sass

Local Brewery Resolves Trademark Dispute With Sass

After Pitt ordered Voodoo Brewery to stop production of its "H2P American IPA," the company relaunched the beer under a new name.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
What Anthony Bourdain Meant to Me

What Anthony Bourdain Meant to Me

Reflecting on the loss of a person so many of us admired.

Comments

Northeast Kitchen Brings Northeastern Chinese Cuisine to Pittsburgh

Northeast Kitchen Brings Northeastern Chinese Cuisine to Pittsburgh

Chef You Shan Pei comes to Pittsburgh after cooking in Flushing, N.Y. restaurants for 18 years.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Five Best Spots to Get Pittsburgh-Themed Merchandise

The Five Best Spots to Get Pittsburgh-Themed Merchandise

Looking to show off your Pittsburgh love? Get your favorite city printed on basically anything at these local shops.

Comments

7 Best Pittsburgh-Area Places You Should Try for Doughnuts

7 Best Pittsburgh-Area Places You Should Try for Doughnuts

When you're craving the real deal, these local spots consistently churn out the very best.

Comments


The Other Moving Documentary About a Curious Pittsburgher

The Other Moving Documentary About a Curious Pittsburgher

In "Will Work For Views," the video artist and musician Weird Paul is a little bit Dr. Demento and a little bit Mister Rogers.

Comments

Man, There's a Lot Going on at Zone 28

Man, There's a Lot Going on at Zone 28

The relaunched entertainment complex in Harmarville is casting a wide net, with some success.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

A Broadway musical about the life and times of the Pittsburgh Pirates? The idea might not be as farfetched as you think.

Comments

Olczyk Embraces Awareness, Understanding to Fight Cancer

Olczyk Embraces Awareness, Understanding to Fight Cancer

Olczyk found out last August, in the wake of a six-hour surgery that removed 14 inches of his colon and “a tumor the size of my fist,” the severity of what he was suddenly confronting.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The 400-Word Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The fifth "Jurassic Park" film is fun. Empty, somewhat disappointing fun.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

The 400-Word Review: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

The documentary about Fred Rogers' work and philosophy inspires even more wonder about the television legend who called Pittsburgh home.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Toppers That Take the Cake

Toppers That Take the Cake

Over the traditional bride and groom standing on top of your cake? Try some of these different ideas for cake toppers.

Comments

Couple Shares Photo Spotlight With Four-Legged Friends

Couple Shares Photo Spotlight With Four-Legged Friends

This Pittsburgh couple is using their engagement photos to raise awareness about one of their most passionate causes.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
PPG Paints Unveils 2019 Color of the Year: Night Watch

PPG Paints Unveils 2019 Color of the Year: Night Watch

Paying homage to the restorative power of nature, this deep green shade is one to watch in the coming year. Here’s how to use it on your walls.

Comments

Five Pittsburgh-Based Etsy Shops You Need to Know About

Five Pittsburgh-Based Etsy Shops You Need to Know About

From furniture to wall art and beyond, these local makers created one-of-a-kind pieces for your home or office.

Comments