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Pittsburgh will go forward with new garage plan

| Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, 12:15 a.m.

As Miami authorities deal with Wednesday's collapse of a five-story parking garage that was under construction and nearing completion, Pittsburgh officials are in the early stages of planning a Downtown garage and performing major repairs at several existing ones.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority is expected to vote Thursday to begin negotiations with a pair of developers and the Pittsburgh Parking Authority on building a 400- to 600-space garage, along with retail and residential space, at the former Saks Fifth Avenue store on Smithfield Street.

Robert Rubinstein, URA's acting executive director, said Miami's garage collapse wouldn't affect the local project.

“We've built six garages in the city in the last six years. That's not a concern we have here,” Rubinstein said. “I'd trust my family in any garages built in Pittsburgh.”

Two years ago, an engineering firm said three city-run garages were in such poor shape that they posed “structural and life safety issues” to users and should be torn down. Montgomery County-based Timothy Haahs & Associates Inc. studied the city's parking garages for a private firm that proposed paying $451.7 million to lease 12 garages and 9,000 metered spaces for 50 years. The mayor's plan to privatize the city's parking assets ultimately died.

Two of the garages are undergoing repairs. The city's parking authority is spending $759,040 on renovations at the Smithfield/Liberty garage and $50,000 on repairs at the Ninth and Penn garage. The latter is scheduled to undergo more significant repairs next year, but the cost hasn't been determined, said David Onorato, the parking authority's executive director.

A fourth garage, at Fort Duquesne and Sixth Street, was deemed two years ago to be in “unfavorable condition,” but Haahs did not recommend it for demolition. The parking authority is spending about $3.6 million on repairs there.

Onorato said all of the authority's garages are safe, noting they are inspected annually and undergo maintenance totaling $10 million to $12 million a year.

“We pay very close attention to them,” Onorato said.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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