As published by The Tube City Almanac 

A Wisconsin-based investment group is purchasing the former G.C. Murphy Co. distribution center in Christy Park and plans to “immediately commence upgrades to the facility to accommodate new tenant occupancy.”

Phoenix Investors LLC announced Monday that it will purchase the 627,000-square-foot facility, which stretches over 36 acres between 28th and 35th avenues.

The building has been occupied since 1995 by Magic Creations, which manufactures and distributes plastic housewares and other items to discount stores. The company will continue to occupy a portion of the facility, Anthony Crivello, executive vice president of Phoenix Investors, told Tube City Almanac.

Terms of the deal are not yet being disclosed, Crivello said.

“We are excited to have a continued interest and opportunity for investment along McKeesport’s Walnut Street corridor,” Mayor Michael Cherepko said. “In becoming a part of our business community, Phoenix Investors is helping Magic Creations continue its operation while making room for new business opportunities on the property.”

The facility is assessed by Allegheny County at $1.1 million and was recently offered for lease at a cost of $3.25 to $4.15 per square foot.

“We are incredibly excited about the acquisition,” Crivello said. “We love the market and are very bullish about the building’s long-term potential.”

Based in Milwaukee, Phoenix Investors was founded in 1994. “Our bread and butter is repurposing and redeveloping older, legacy industrial complexes,” Crivello said.

The company currently owns about 46 million square feet of industrial real estate, he said, including 3 million square feet in Pennsylvania.

In March 2020, Phoenix Investors purchased the former Continental Can Co. plant on Lebanon Road in West Mifflin for $8 million, according to county tax records.

That facility is being marketed for offices, warehouse space and light manufacturing.

The McKeesport property “is a great compliment to our project in West Mifflin,” said Frank Crivello, founder and chairman of Phoenix Investors, in a prepared statement. The company is based in Milwaukee. “The property’s location in a thriving industrial market makes this acquisition especially valuable.”

In a press release, the company cited several advantages to the Christy Park facility, including 55 loading dock doors, a fenced lot, 24-hour security, and proximity to major highways.

The transaction was brokered by Ned Shekels of Pennsylvania Commercial Real Estate, Inc., the company said. The facility was last renovated in 2018, according to a real estate listing.

McKeesport-based Murphy company was a publicly traded Fortune 500 retailer that operated more than 500 variety and discount stores in 24 states, mostly east of the Mississippi River. Dissident investors led by corporate raiders Arthur Goldberg and Irwin Jacobs forced it into a merger with Connecticut-based Ames Department Stores Inc. in 1985.

Murphy’s McKeesport Distribution Center was built in 1940 and then extensively expanded in 1962. It includes three connected buildings on two levels, as well as 8,000 square feet of office space.

Ames closed the McKeesport distribution center in 1993. It was occupied by privately held Magic Creations two years later.

In September 2020, Magic Creations held a public auction and sold much of its plastic molding equipment. Although the company would not discuss its plans with Tube City Almanac, a spokesman told a reporter that it was not closing.

Persons interested in leasing space at the facility should contact Anthony Crivello directly, he said.

About Phoenix Investors

Founded by Frank P. Crivello in 1994, Phoenix Investors and its affiliates (collectively “Phoenix”) are a leader in the acquisition, development, renovation, and repositioning of industrial facilities throughout the United States. Utilizing a disciplined investment approach and successful partnerships with institutional capital sources, corporations and public stakeholders, Phoenix has developed a proven track record of generating superior risk adjusted returns, while providing cost-efficient lease rates for its growing portfolio of national tenants. Its efforts inspire and drive the transformation and reinvigoration of the economic engines in the communities it serves. Phoenix continues to be defined by thoughtful relationships, sophisticated investment tools, cost efficient solutions, and a reputation for success.