Brothers have big dreams of restoring former Iron City Brewery site

Bob Bauder
| Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

A South Fayette firm wants to restore the historic Iron City Brewery and develop it into a national attraction, but estimates it would cost about $3 million just to prepare the property for development.

Collier Development, owned by brothers Jack and Jim Cargoni, is seeking community approval before finalizing plans for the 8.95-acre complex on Liberty Avenue in Lawrenceville, said Tim Frew, Collier's on-site business consultant. He said the company expects to develop the property during the next decade and would seek assistance from the city, state and federal government.

“We're going to restore it to its original grandeur,” Frew said during a tour of the site on Friday. “It's very important that the citizens be involved in the process for us to be successful.”

The company is leasing office space to Pittsburgh Brewing Co., which produces Iron City Beer in Latrobe, and has two tenants lined up for warehouse space along Sassafras Way. Frew said a master plan under development would determine other uses for the property. He said the company has received inquiries from people interested in establishing a restaurant there.

“It's unique because it's a large site, it has a long history, and it intersects several city neighborhoods,” said Matt Galluzzo, executive director of the Lawrenceville Corp. civic group. “We want to see the buildings and the site maintained. What will go into the site remains to be seen. What buildings remain on the site remains to be seen.”

Collier raised concern among neighbors this week when it tore down two buildings in what Frew described as an emergency demolition. Pittsburgh's building inspectors cited the company for failing to have demolition permits and permission from the Historic Review Commission. The brewery is designated as a city historical landmark.

“Why are they tearing down historic buildings if they want to restore them?” said Carol Peterson, who co-chairs the Lawrenceville Stakeholders Historic Preservation Committee. “Let's not destroy the village in order to save it.”

Collier officials said the buildings, which they said were not historic, were dangerous to workers.

The brewery moved from near 17th Street in the Strip District to what was then Lawrenceville's Iron City Park in 1867, said Chuck Puckett of Peters, Pittsburgh Brewing Co.'s historian. It includes about 20 buildings, most of them attached and made of red bricks, constructed from the late 19th century through the 1970s.

The oldest dated building is the 1884 “Brew House” where beer was made. An arched stone above the entrance bears the names, “Frauenheim & Vilsack,” two of the founders.

Other notable buildings on the site include the 1886 office building on Liberty and an 1896 keg storage building.

Frew said possibilities for the complex also include condominiums and a hotel, but the company is open to suggestions. Inquires about a possible restaurant involve the keg storage house. The building also included a cooperage where wooden kegs were made.

The long building has two steel support beams from the Herron Avenue Bridge's 19th-century predecessor. They run from a sandstone block foundation in the basement through the first floor up to the roof where they were cut off. Collier plans to leave the beams and foundations intact.

Frew said plans for the complex would be discussed at a public meeting in September that will include representatives of Bloomfield, Polish Hill, Lawrenceville and the Strip. DLA Architecture of Green Tree is developing the master plan.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or

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