The long-abandoned site of downtown’s Smithfield Cafe finds new life as custom condos

The site of the downtown Smithfield Cafe has been abandoned for over a decade. We featured it in a story about Pittsburgh’s most inexplicably abandoned buildings a few years ago – and described it as “looking like an ashtray full of cigarette butts no one is ever going to empty”, which was generous.

It’s taken a long time, but it looks like this property – which includes an eight-story building that famed architect Frederick Osterling was hired to design to replace a grocery store that burned down in 1897, along with two small adjoining properties – will finally having a purpose again.

Custom Condos in Smithfield brings an unusual concept of customizable residential units (and retail/restaurant spaces) to this long-neglected site at 635 Smithfield St.

Frederick Osterling designed the 19th century building on Smithfield Street. Photo courtesy of Thomas Bost.

“People can get a 1,700 square foot unit up to 10,000 square feet,” says Thomas Bost of Bost Development, noting that buyers can take a half floor or even two whole floors if they want.


“There are people who want to live in bigger condos; 2,500 to 3,000 square feet is generally the high end of condos available (downtown).

Buyers will get a “core and shell,” which includes plumbing, electrical, and other infrastructure, as well as a restored exterior. Bost will then provide access to architects and designers to finish the interiors, the cost of which will be fully covered by the new owners.

Core and shell prices will start at around $725,000, and Bost hopes to pre-sell half of the units to help fund the project. The development will eventually have between six and 12 co-owners. No timeline has been set.

Each floor will also have its own terrace/patio space, added to the side of the eight-story building.

“You can have an outdoor kitchen,” says Bost. “Or you can grow herbs and garden a little. Or you can do something for your pet, maybe put some grass on it. Everyone has their own idea of ​​how they want to use this space.

The Smithfield Cafe’s two-story building is not salvageable, Bost says, and will be replaced with a modern one-story retail space perfect for a restaurant. There will be approximately 5,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor.


The entire project will cost around $8 million and is being marketed by Howard Hanna’s Lori Bost team. Design by Wildman Chalmers is the architect.


Bost Developmentdowntown condosDowntown PittsburghHoward HannaPittsburgh condosPittsburgh real estateSmithfield Custom Condos

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