Carnegie Mellon Spends Nearly $17 Million On Shadyside Apartment Complex And Plans for the Future

On Nov. 2, Carnegie Mellon purchased a Shadyside apartment complex known as Fifth Neville for $16.98 million, one of its most expensive real estate investments to date.

According to Allegheny county real estate records, the Fifth Neville complex had been assessed at $3.6 million, which means that Carnegie Mellon paid more than $13 million over the assessed price for Fifth Neville, more than $217,000 per unit. This far exceeds the price per unit paid for the 319-apartment Ascent 430, a luxury apartment in Warrendale with a number of amenities such as a swimming pool, conference rooms, and even more. While some may question why Carnegie Mellon would pay so much more than the county’s assessment for the Fifth Neville apartment complex, university spokespeople and outside business professionals think that this is an excellent purchase.

The Fifth Neville apartment complex is located at 4705 Fifth Avenue, quite close to the corner of Neville Street. Carnegie Mellon spokesman Jason Maderer said in a statement to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the benefits of the investment are twofold: it will allow Carnegie Mellon to both satisfy the increasing demand for university-owned housing, and also allow Carnegie Mellon to be more flexible in initiating future renovations to existing buildings. Carnegie Mellon plans to renovate Fifth Neville to elevate the complex to university standards in matters such as life safety.

The managing director of Colliers International’s Pittsburgh office, Gregg Broujos, acknowledged that Carnegie Mellon paid a great deal for Fifth Neville when he spoke to the Pittsburgh Business Times. Regardless, he stated that “Oakland has and will continue to demand the highest prices, quite frankly, in the state.” As the healthcare and scholarly center of Pittsburgh and one of a number of the city’s most popular cultural centers, Broujos and others see the cost as fully justified due to the ever-increasing demand for properties in a coveted area stuffed to the brim with activity.

Although Fifth Neville was constructed 60 years ago, the six story high, 78-unit apartment complex has recently been updated to modern standards. In addition, it is at a nearly full capacity. Most of the 78 units are single or double occupancy. The university has stated that Fifth Neville’s location is ideal for Carnegie Mellon students.
Fifth Neville is near other Carnegie Mellon-owned housing complexes on Fifth Avenue, including several recently bought from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, which will make it relatively simple for Carnegie Mellon to incorporate it into its “institutional master plan.” Moreover, it’s only a short walk from Fifth Neville to the Tepper Quadrangle and, in turn, to Carnegie Mellon’s main campus.

In 2015, Carnegie Mellon requested that the zoning for a parcel of land it bought from the diocese be changed to EMI, or Educational, Medical, and Institutional. Although Carnegie Mellon planned on constructing a five-story building to serve as a “hub of student life” to be completed by the spring of 2018, that plan is still on hold for the time being. That building would have been Carnegie Mellon’s first academic facility in Shadyside.

Erika Strassburger, the city councilwoman for Shadyside and parts of Oakland, has met with Carnegie Mellon leaders to discuss the Fifth Neville purchase, but she has yet to hear of any concrete plans. “[I look forward to] a full community process once plans are developed,” said Strassburger to the Pittsburgh Business Times.

Carnegie Mellon’s purchase of Fifth Neville marks its latest expansion beyond the boundaries of the main campus and into the largely residential Shadyside. Fifth Neville itself was a commercial residential apartment complex itself prior to Carnegie Mellon’s purchase of it. Current residents of Fifth Neville will be forced to leave the complex upon the completion of their respective leases.

In a broader sense, Carnegie Mellon’s purchase of Fifth Neville is representative of its increasing focus on expanding the university, both in terms of campus housing and academic buildings. One need only look at Carnegie Mellon’s plans for the brand new Scaife Hall, the constant construction on many parts of campus such as the Mall, and the recently completed Tepper Quadrangle to understand Carnegie Mellon’s plans for its future.