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 Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

HGTV Star Leanne Ford Launches New Home Collection at Target

The “Restored by the Fords” designer’s signature lighting line is set to hit shelves in February.

PM on KD: The Turkey Devonshire

PM Associate Editor and dining critic Hal B. Klein appeared on KDKA's Pittsburgh Today Live to discuss his new sandwich obsession, the Turkey Devonshire, and how it ended up on our February cover.

You Try It, Being a Meteorologist In Pittsburgh Isn't Easy

Aside from a Steelers loss, nothing seems to fire up Pittsburghers more than a blown weather forecast.

Our 50 Years: Why I Hate Nostalgia

Enjoying memories is fun – but a far cry from pining for the past.

Perspectives: Finding Grace in #MomLife

A Pittsburgh television reporter learns to embrace the imperfection that comes with being a working mom.

The 400-Word Review: Pledge

IFC Midnight's collegiate terror tale is mostly for genre fans, but it lands a few decent punches.

Capel’s Basketball Resurrection Has the Zoo Rocking Again

Head coach Jeff Capel is restoring respectability and re-establishing the relationship between Pitt’s students and Pitt’s student athletes.

Why Did No One Tell Me Cirque du Soleil is Awesome

A skeptical novice takes in the troupe's "Corteo" production and is stunned at his own delight.

Three Rivers Champion: Julius Boatwright

Boatwright works to connect everyone who needs it with mental health support.

Turkey Devonshire: Reviving a Classic Pittsburgh Sandwich

The once-famous sandwich originated here but now is largely forgotten. We dive into its history and argue that it's time for a revival.

Navigating the Future of Public Transit in Pittsburgh

Six Pittsburghers share their struggles and hopes for the region’s public transit system.

Why Jamison Farm Is a “A Napa Valley for Sheep”

How a former coal miner and his wife use the resources atop rolling Westmoreland County hills to produce the best lamb in the United States.

Pittsburgh Restaurant Review: Fish nor Fowl

The sixth standalone concept from the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group, is DeShantz’s most exciting restaurant yet.

Our 50 Years: When We Tried to Predict the Future

25 years ago, we predicted what the Pittsburgh of 2019 would look like. We were ... close?

Help Pay Tribute to a Pittsburgh Jazz Legend

Mary Lou Williams began as a teenage piano prodigy in the Hill District and made it to Carnegie Hall and beyond. This month, you can discover her musical legacy.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


You Try It, Being a Meteorologist In Pittsburgh Isn't Easy

You Try It, Being a Meteorologist In Pittsburgh Isn't Easy

Aside from a Steelers loss, nothing seems to fire up Pittsburghers more than a blown weather forecast.

Comments

Our 50 Years: Why I Hate Nostalgia

Our 50 Years: Why I Hate Nostalgia

Enjoying memories is fun – but a far cry from pining for the past.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Fresh Fest Beerfest Is Set to Return to Pittsburgh

Fresh Fest Beerfest Is Set to Return to Pittsburgh

The country's first black brewfest looks to double in size this year.

Comments

Pittsburgh Chef Moves: Csilla Thackray Headed to Legume Bistro

Pittsburgh Chef Moves: Csilla Thackray Headed to Legume Bistro

Thackray's departure from The Vandal will result in a new menu at that Lawrenceville restaurant.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Fitness: Five Great Trails to Run in the Fall in Pittsburgh

Fitness: Five Great Trails to Run in the Fall in Pittsburgh

Don’t resign yourself to the gym treadmills just yet – fall is one of the best times of the year to get outside and pound the pavement, surrounded by falling leaves and the possibility of grabbing a hot latte on the way home.

Comments

Love Sourdough? Find the Best There Is at These Five Bake Shops

Love Sourdough? Find the Best There Is at These Five Bake Shops

We dove into the local artisan bread scene to find the best places that bake naturally leavened bread in Pittsburgh.

Comments


Why Did No One Tell Me Cirque du Soleil is Awesome

Why Did No One Tell Me Cirque du Soleil is Awesome

A skeptical novice takes in the troupe's "Corteo" production and is stunned at his own delight.

Comments

My New Neighborhood Bar is The Birmingham Bridge Tavern

My New Neighborhood Bar is The Birmingham Bridge Tavern

After settling into a new neighborhood, PM nightlife editor Sean Collier sings the praises of his go-to corner bar.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Capel’s Basketball Resurrection Has the Zoo Rocking Again

Capel’s Basketball Resurrection Has the Zoo Rocking Again

Head coach Jeff Capel is restoring respectability and re-establishing the relationship between Pitt’s students and Pitt’s student athletes.

Comments

Steelers' Organization Shares Blame for Brown Debacle

Steelers' Organization Shares Blame for Brown Debacle

For years now, the Steelers have been working around Brown’s maladaptive tendencies from Monday through Saturday and throwing him the ball on Sunday and hoping for the best.

Comments


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

The 400-Word Review: Pledge

IFC Midnight's collegiate terror tale is mostly for genre fans, but it lands a few decent punches.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Glass

The 400-Word Review: Glass

M. Night Shyamalan's crossover film lands with a splat, as the filmmaker once again can't resist his worst impulses.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Pop Culture Touches Made These Weddings Extra Special

Pop Culture Touches Made These Weddings Extra Special

Whether you love all things Disney, “Game of Thrones” or “Star Wars,” there are lots of ways to add some personal — and fun — details into your wedding day.

Comments

It’s a Hockey Wedding in Pittsburgh

It’s a Hockey Wedding in Pittsburgh

This Pittsburgh couple was brought together by their love of hockey — and what better way to celebrate their New Year’s Eve wedding than with an outdoor game?

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
HGTV Star Leanne Ford Launches New Home Collection at Target

HGTV Star Leanne Ford Launches New Home Collection at Target

The “Restored by the Fords” designer’s signature lighting line is set to hit shelves in February.

Comments

Up for Auction: Luxury 200-Acre Ligonier Estate Owned by Former EDMC Exec

Up for Auction: Luxury 200-Acre Ligonier Estate Owned by Former EDMC Exec

Woodmere is one of four high-end properties owned by Robert Knutson scheduled to hit the auction block this week.

Comments