Built big for big times

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .


When it was built in 1906, the Pittsburgh Terminal building on the South Side was the largest warehouse between New York and Chicago. Today, as the River Walk Corporate Centre, it is home to architects, non-profits, printing companies, designers and, as of last week, City Center Self Storage.

Nick Lackner
, founder and general manager, showed me around his climate controlled space yesterday. So far, the company has 85 storage units, from 5x5s to 10x20s, and the capacity to fill 120,000 square feet on four floors.

When the elevator door opened to the fifth floor, I was hit by a sense of immensity. You get a sense of how Pittsburgh saw itself and its future in the early 20th century when you stand in a space like that.

From one end of the building to the other, 19 enormous arched doorways line up, the brick walls between each bay a foot thick.

This is where I’d want to be if a bomb hit.

I stood in an empty bay and imagined it as two loft apartments; two so that each terminal3apartment would have a wall of windows. In half of that bay, I could have put all my stuff and still had a regulation-size racquetball court.

Nick said the use to which they are putting their space resonates with the past, when everything from metal coils to food was stored there. Storage was what the building was built for.

They got a $5,000 grant from the city to upgrade the old garage bays into a storefront that faces South 4th Street.

As the business partners were clearing, cleaning and reconstructing their space, they found some old postcards in a desk. One is published here, along with a photo of the terminal building(s)in the early days.

You can read more about the postcards and the story behind City Center Self Storage here. 

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