BOMA Bridges Part 5; The Perplexing 80’s

BOMA Bridges Part 5; The Perplexing 80's

John Java, johnjava207@gmail.com

The perplexing ‘80’s! 

That somewhat describes the entire Pittsburgh region’s economic, social, and local life experiences throughout the 1980’s. The entire nation experienced varying bouts of depression and euphoria, from the stock market “401 killer” crash of 1987 to the destruction of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Regional steel unemployment soared to 14% in some communities, yet Rand McNally named Pittsburgh “America’s Most Livable City” in 1985. In the Pittsburgh region, industry lost 133,000+ jobs, but the Penguins signed Mario Lemieux.

BOMA Pittsburgh members, staff, officers and directors all experienced real estate industry related turmoil. Six new major high-rises opened in the 80’s adding 6 million+ square feet of rentable space, but as jobs started declining, parking rates increased, and spaces diminished, all BOMA office and leasing manager concerns.

  • 1982 - One Oxford Center
  • 1983 - One Mellon Bank
  • 1984 - PPG Place                                                          
  • 1985 - 5th Ave. Place
  • 1986 - Federated Inv (Liberty Ctr) Tower                
  • 1987 - Dominion (EQT) Tower

As industry and support companies closed, consolidated, or moved, they diminished in economic power and social impact with reduced operating budgets resulting in a decline in BOMA membership and participation.  The city county population shrunk as people moved elsewhere. Yet, in Downtown Pittsburgh and the surrounding area there were many new developments. Gimbels and Horne’s departments stores closed downtown but continued to operate in suburban malls which were under construction or expanding. 

As BOMA Pittsburgh focused on downtown properties, it was not able to make many inroads at suburban office park developments, yet Pittsburgh based officers and directors remained strident advocates with participation on local, state, and national levels. Their involvement further strengthened BOMA’s government affairs efforts in the ‘80s with the formation of the National Advisory Council (NAC); a forum for senior executives of major real estate firms to discuss key industry issues.  Building owners received much needed tax breaks with the passage of the Economic Recovery Act of 1981, and BOMA was   busier than ever lobbying on issues such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s), asbestos, accessibility, taxes, energy, and capital gains issues. BOMA International revised the Standard Method of Floor Measurement, now often referred to as “The BOMA Standard.” 

The flow of products and services ramped up in the ‘80s with publications including The Office Building Lease Manual, The Changing Office Workplace, and The Functional Accounting Guide and Charts of Accounts.  The Office Building of the Year “TOBY” Awards program began in 1985, and One Mellon Bank Center was a 1986 BOMA International TOBY award winner.

BOMA Pittsburgh, along with the Golden Triangle  Association, city administrators, and various corporate leaders struggled to keep the downtown vibrant, safe, competitive and inviting. Situational events like the annual Arts Festival, the Regatta, and sport teams were fantastic entertainment but could not foster more people living and working downtown on a permanent basis.  The positive aspects of increased downtown living were apparent and would start to be addressed in  the 1990’s.