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Pittsburgh puts brakes on Downtown building rappelling fundraiser

| Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 2:13 p.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
The Westin Convention Center Pittsburgh in Downtown was slated to have 86 participants rappel down its sides on Wednesday, June 25, 2014. The Shatterproof Challenge Pittsburgh, a fundraising event for Shatterproof's mission to combat addiction, has been postponed by the City of Pittsburgh because of permitting issues.

Organizers postponed a fundraising event Wednesday in which 86 people were going to rappel down the side of the Westin Convention Center hotel, Downtown, when city officials had safety concerns.

Drug addiction-prevention group Shatterproof said city officials gave notice Tuesday that they wanted more information about the event before authorizing it. Maura Kennedy, director of the Bureau of Building Inspection, said the city will not grant a temporary certificate of occupancy to the event until engineers have done a load test to ensure parts of the building's structure can withstand the weight.

Shatterproof founder Gary Mendell sent an email to participants Tuesday saying the event would be rescheduled for sometime in the next three to 10 weeks.

“We were previously assured by the city of Pittsburgh that all necessary permits were secured; however, the Pittsburgh Department of Building Inspections has recently requested additional information before we hold our event,” Mendell said in the email. “We are truly very sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you.”

This year, Shatterproof hosted similar events in California and Texas in partnership with Over the Edge, a company that provides rappelling and rope use expertise, and that has held more than 400 similar events nationwide.

“In 10 years of Over the Edge doing events around the country, this has never happened,” Shatterproof manager Holly Jespersen wrote in an email to the Tribune-Review.

In Pittsburgh, the event has raised more than $85,000 from more than 1,225 donors.

Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8511 or mdaniels@tribweb.com.

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