FILE - In this file photo taken on Sept. 16, 2009, people walk by some of the mom-and-pop restaurants and shops on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh's Strip District. A six- or seven-block area along Penn Avenue features a large fresh fish market that also sells sushi and sandwiches, Italian bakeries, Vietnamese noodle shops, and stores specializing in Italian, Mexican, Oriental, Polish, Greek, and Middle Eastern food. There are also specialty coffee and tea shops, vegetarian restaurants and neighborhood bars, all fun to browse. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

In this file photo taken on Sept. 16, 2009, people walk by some of the mom-and-pop restaurants and shops on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar/File)

After nearly three years, the Urban Redevelopment Authority board has finally approved a deal to develop the former produce building in the Strip District. Rather than selling the building, the authority approved a long-term lease on the property for a $2.5 million up front fee to McCaffrey Interest Inc. of Chicago, who redeveloped some of the first strip loft apartments decades ago.

McCaffrey’s plan for the iconic produce terminal include restaurants and a public market or grocery, plus office space and up to 20 apartments that would double as offices for the tenants. Rent would average $21 per square foot. The total cost is estimated at up to $70 million, with about $20 million coming from foundation grants and public subsidies.

Despite calling the property an “albatross around the neck of taxpayers for more than a decade,” board member Jim Ferlo joined in the unanimous decision.

McCaffrey told the board the development would retain the “gritty” look of the strip, and would bring in about 350 jobs. Executive Director Robert Rubinstein estimated the annual tax revenue at $1 million.

Additionally, the board also approved the sale of the former Detectives Building in East Liberty to School House Electrical Supply of Portland Oregon for $250,000. Reading from his report, Rubinstein noted the company owner started his business in a 1910-era warehouse and has experience in redeveloping such properties.

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