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Ballet Theatre continues expansion at Strip District site

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is in the midst of a $6 million expansion at its Strip District school and headquarters, which will allow the opportunity to double its current student population and construct a circular driveway around its building.

Both are part of the $1.5 million second phase of the expansion which recently received a $200,000 grant from the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County under the county's Community Infrastructure & Tourism Fund.

Currently, there are about 900 students in the Ballet Theatre School, which is housed in the ballet's headquarters at 2900 Liberty Ave.

"The ballet will renovate the Liberty Avenue entrance and add landscaping and greenspace," said Harris Ferris, ballet theatre CEO and executive director.

Jendoco Construction is finishing work on a sleek, glass and steel structure that will double the size of the reception area.

The plan is to provide a new exit and entrance site onto 29th Street, thus easing the congestion on Liberty, which now is the lone entrance-and-exit site.

Work on the 240-foot driveway will begin in the spring to enable traffic to circle the ballet's Byham House at 3501 Liberty Ave., Ferris said.

The first phase, involving $1.5 million, included the purchase and renovation of the former St. John The Baptist's Rectory at 3501 Liberty and its conversion into the Byham House in September 2010. The Byham House is a residence hall for high-school students from throughout the United States and international locations, who are enrolled in the ballet's pre-professional program

New sprung floors were installed in all five studios. Sprung floors have the ability to absorb shock. When the dancers land, the floor moves a little with the dancer, whose backs, hips and other joints don't take as much pounding. Sprung floors can help extended the careers of dancers by promoting safety and decreasing the risk of student injuries.

During the third and final phase of the expansion, $3 million is proposed for construction of a new building on the site that will add three dance studios, Ferris said.

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