After decades of turning its back to the river — which was often blocked by heavy industrial and railroad uses — Pittsburgh has been rediscovering its waterfronts.

In the latest example, a 350,000-square-foot, 246-unit apartment project recently received approval from the Pittsburgh Planning Commission for a key riverfront parcel next to Hofbräuhaus and the South Shore Riverfront Park.

The Monongahela River across from SouthSide Works. Photo courtesy of SomeraRoad.

“Opportunities to develop projects and create communities like this to take advantage of the riverfront have historically been limited,” says Andrew Donchez, director of development for SomeraRoad, SouthSide Works’ new owner. “This location, unencumbered by the railroad thanks to the tunnel through SouthSide Works, offers a unique opportunity to create direct access to the river that really can’t be replicated.”

The New York City-based company is also redeveloping the site’s former movie theater into an 80,000-square-foot, tech-centric office space. The retail mix is also changing to focus more on local businesses than national chains.

More residents will mean more shoppers and more foot traffic for the planned public spaces, which include a dog park, playground and community garden. Food trucks, concerts and movies are all starting to appear this summer.

Map of SouthSide Works courtesy of SomeraRoad.

Lawrenceville-based Desmone Architects designed the $75 million apartment project. Units will be priced at market rate, “with rents commensurate with current, similar Class-A offerings in the market,” notes Donchez.

The seven-story SouthSide Works Riverfront Apartments will feature a roof deck and pool overlooking the river and Downtown and will be steps away from the Three Rivers Heritage Trail.

“As much thought goes into planning access to the riverfront for the general public as goes into the riverfront experience for new residents,” says Donchez.

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.