Last week was homecoming week for Millcraft Investments.
The real estate development and management giant, a longtime Washington County staple, returned to Southpointe following a decade-plus absence. Millcraft opened its new national headquarters Monday at 380 Southpointe Blvd., on the hill overlooking the golf club.
Jack Piatt, the founder and owner, relocated his firm’s base of operations from the Crossroads Center in downtown Washington. Convenience and geography were the main impetuses for relocating to the mixed-use park in Cecil Township.
“This is a strategic move,” said Lucas Piatt, Jack’s son and the company president and chief operating officer. From Southpointe, “We thought we would better serve our customers, our clients and all the buildings we own. To be closer to Pittsburgh, to our assets, makes tremendous sense to us.”
Millcraft has completed, is working on and is planning numerous projects there. It also has offices in downtown Pittsburgh, Shadyside, Upper St. Clair, Sewickley, Wexford and Glenshaw – all north of Southpointe, but 12 miles closer than Washington. And the park has ready access to high-speed Interstate 79.
By moving, Millcraft is creating an occupancy in a building it manages. But there is a tenant in waiting. Peacock Keller LLP, the locally renowned law firm, will take over that space in January 2020. Peacock Keller also will open an office in Southpointe next month.
“We’re pretty well rented out (at Crossroads Center on West Beau Street),” said Jack Piatt, a sprightly 91.
Millcraft’s previous relocation was not as joyous, thanks to an unfortunate corporate circumstance about a dozen years ago. The company built Crossroads Center on West Beau Street as part of an urban revitalization effort in the city of Washington. Jack Piatt said a tenant signed a 20-year lease to occupy the six-story structure, but that firm went bankrupt after work was completed in 2006.
“It cost us $80 million to build and we sued and got $300,000,” Jack recalled last week. To minimize its losses, Millcraft left Southpointe and settled into the Crossroads Center, where the center of its operations would remain for nearly a dozen years.
“The move to downtown Washington was non-strategic,” Lucas said. “We had to backfill for a company that went bankrupt.”
Years later, the moving vans rolled back into Southpointe, completing a most lengthy round trip. Millcraft is operating in Plaza II, in 28,500 square feet of workspace. The first workday there, fittingly, was the day after Father’s Day.
Jack Piatt is the official father of the company, launching it in 1957, during the Eisenhower administration. Millcraft grew quickly into a leader in industrial fabrication and steel product manufacturing, but shifted away from steel in the 1970s, when it began focusing entirely on commercial real estate. Change and growth, over time, have been profound.
Piatt also is a father of Southpointe, a linchpin in developing the mixed-use park. The process began one day in the late 1980s, when he and harness racing legend Delvin Miller were tooling down I-79, passing a rolling, forested tract that was largely undeveloped (except for Western Center, a facility housing individuals with intellectual disabilities).
Miller said the property would be a great location for a golf course. Piatt thought golf course community, with housing.
The ball started rolling, elected officials joined Piatt and Miller in the ambitious project, land was purchased and something different began to evolve – Southpointe. The 589-acre park opened and Piatt located his headquarters there.
The return of a Southpointe pioneer, and his son, was celebrated Thursday during a Southpointe Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the golf club. Jack and Lucas Piatt were honored by the chamber and received a hearty ovation before they addressed the crowd of 125.
“We’re pleased to have Jack and Lucas Piatt back to Southpointe,” said Don Hodor, executive director and founder of the Southpointe chamber. “Jack, Rod and Lucas have the vision and unique ability to bring opportunities to the area.”
Rod Piatt, another of Jack’s sons, founded and owns Horizon Properties, a commercial real estate developer that is nearly across Southpointe Boulevard from Millcraft. Rod is the lead developer of Southpointe II.
In his 10th decade, Jack remains sprightly, an engaging conversationalist with a quick sense of humor. Working with his father, Lucas points out, “is tremendous,” but can be as challenging of a project as anything Millcraft tackles.
“Actually, I can’t keep up with him,” the son said. “Our roles have flipped. Now I have to ask why he’s coming home at 2 a.m.”
Lucas was referring his dad’s real home, not the corporate one that is now back in Cecil.