Share This Page

'Skinny building' in Downtown Pittsburgh set for facelift

| Thursday, May 22, 2014, 2:18 p.m.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Pedestrians cross the intersection of Forbes Avenue and Wood Street downtown in front of the former home of John M. Roberts & Co., a jeweler, and an adjoining structure known as the “skinny building” on May 22, 2014.

Pittsburgh's Downtown is experiencing a construction surge, with 18 projects worth more than $770 million, officials said on Thursday.

The work includes exterior renovation of two historic buildings along Wood Street and skyscrapers such as the Gardens at Market Square hotel and office tower on Forbes Avenue.

“The majority of it is in the Golden Triangle,” Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, said of the work. “It really is going to significantly change the landscape, particularly in the core.”

Mayor Bill Peduto said he directed his administration to plan development around the preservation of existing structures.

“It's become a focus of our administration to use historic preservation as a critical tool of economic development,” he said. “Where we're ... expending taxpayer dollars, we're expecting developers not to put into the trash heap the history of the city of Pittsburgh but to polish it up and save it as a way of creating a uniqueness about Pittsburgh.”

The mayor's office, the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority and Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation will use the last of a $4 million state grant to restore exteriors on the former home of John M. Roberts & Co., a jeweler, and an adjoining structure known as the “skinny building” at the corner of Forbes Avenue and Wood Street. The work will cost $555,000.

The URA, which owns the buildings, leases them to a 7-Eleven convenience store in the Roberts building. The 7-Eleven, in turn, leases to Fello-Cire Apparel in the three-story skinny building, which measures 6 feet wide and originally was a hamburger stand.

“You take these buildings that were both eyesores and turn them into something that's pleasing to the eye,” said John Valentine, executive director of the Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corp. “It just enhances Downtown and makes more people want to come here.”

Paul Svoboda, the URA's special projects manager, said the agency would market the buildings. The lease with 7-Eleven continues until 2021.

City officials and preservationists in recent years used some of the grant money to renovate exteriors of eight buildings around Market Square, including three on Wood Street with rare cast-iron fronts.

Waldrup said Downtown is experiencing a major face-lift.

In addition to the $86 million Gardens at Market Square by Millcraft Industries, construction includes PNC's 33-story, $400 million office tower at Forbes and Wood.

Waldrup said renovations include the Oliver Building on Smithfield Street, the Regional Enterprise Tower on Sixth Avenue and the Union Trust Building on Grant Street. All told, it equals $772 million in construction for greater Downtown, which includes the North Shore, South Shore and Strip District, Waldrup said.

Bob Bauder is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.