Student apartments advertised in old Pioneer Hall

Written By Cassandra Harris, News Editor

111 Wood Street, previously known as Pioneer Hall, is leasing out apartments for the first time since during the COVID-19 pandemic. The building was previously “master leased” to Point Park as sophomore commons. According to Steven Hitt, leasing agent and building manager, one spot in a 4-person room under his “Mom and Pop” company, McHolme Construction, costs $600 a month with all utilities included. 

All of the rooms are similar in size, pricing fluctuates based on how many people are staying in each apartment. A three person room costs $800 per resident and a two person accommodation would cost $1200.

The rooms are dorm style. Along with furniture each unit comes with a standard Fridge, Kitchen stove top, two bathrooms and laundry on every floor. The stove tops are a new addition, and the refrigerators replace mini-fridges that were there previously. The laundry machines are to be installed by National Apartment Laundry services and will be ticket operated similar to purchasing a bus pass.

“You’ll have it on every floor,” Hitt said. “The price point for that, I’m not sure. In my building it’s $1.25 to wash and $1 to dry.”

According to Hitt, there isn’t a written policy regarding incense and candles in the building.

“We haven’t addressed that formally,” Hitt said. “Burning incense I don’t see a problem, candles we try to discourage, I don’t know if we’re going to try to make a written policy on that.”

In the basement of the building Hitt plans to create a recreational center where both residents can relax and create community. He also plans to lease the office space on the first floor. He also hopes to open a retail space downtown.

“We have a retail space that is open, it’s either office or retail that I’m trying to fight to get maybe a possibility of a competitor to target,” Hitt said. 

The office space is around 1200 square feet. To accommodate a business, Hitt and his company would allow them to knock down a few non-load bearing walls and replace the glass window out front with a door.

“The biggest thing I got from students at Point Park and then even business people that come in and out,” Hitt said, “There’s not enough affordable shopping. We’re hoping to reach out to various retailers that are grocery or a mix of dorm style stuff like Target did.”

According to Michael Gieseke, dean of student life, the building was master leased to the university for about 10 years before the pandemic hit.

“We were looking at numbers and looking at the long term and made the decision between the company itself and us that we no longer needed Pioneer [Hall],” Gieseke said. “So we just didn’t renew the lease.”

Hannah Madrid, freshman dance major, currently lives in Thayer Hall. She doesn’t want to live in dorms next year because it’s “too expensive.” If it’s cheaper than other apartments she’s looking at in the city, she would move to Pioneer. She spoke about her university housing.

“I think it’s a little overpriced for what you get, especially with the meal plan,” Madrid said. “When I first applied I was like, room and board is this much, this is what I’m going to be expecting, and then I came here and it was like, why am I paying this much?”

She also reflected on her financial status compared to other students.

“It’s fine because I’m not in a situation where I have to worry about how much my housing costs,” Madrid said. “But for others, there’s definitely room for improvement and having to find an apartment is like not fun at all.

Conestoga is also owned by the same company that runs Pioneer Hall but is still master leased through the University. Hitt wants to increase the “social dichotomy” of his building so that it isn’t only exclusive to Point Park students as residents.

“We’re more Mom and Pop,” Hitt said. “We’re smaller and we sort of fit that niche. I also want to incorporate other colleges. I remember my college years, you can disagree with me but I think that the college experience should be broad. There’s room without feeling like Point Park needs to be competitive with duquesne or vice versa.”

Gieske said that the university does not view apartments this close to campus as competition either. Rather, he encourages outside leasing companies like this as a benefit to the university.  

“Downtown housing has become more and more affordable,” Gieseke said. “Downtown housing is becoming available for college students. There’s a little less of a need to make sure that it’s university housing. There’s not as much of a need because our students still can find affordable, close, safe housing that doesn’t necessarily have to be university housing.”

Gieske is surprised that they did not begin leasing the building again any sooner. 

According to Hitt, the woman who owns the building inherited 111 Wood Street through her ex-husband. She attempted to sell the building before turning it over to Hitt’s guidance. Since she gave him the go, he’s been spreading the apartment listing through word of mouth, reputation and signs on Wood Street. 

Hitt will be hosting an open house for the building this Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Similar to a university he will also hire two residential assistants and provide them with a $100 discount on their rent.