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Pittsburgh Playhouse in Downtown OK'd by city planners

| Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015, 6:38 p.m.

Point Park University's plans to build a Pittsburgh Playhouse in Downtown received approval Tuesday from the city's Planning Commission despite objections from preservationists.

Point Park plans to begin dismantling the facades of historic buildings at 320, 322 and 330 Forbes Ave. in March, and it will demolish the buildings to make way for a playhouse to replace the one in Oakland, said university architect Elmer Burger.

The facades will be incorporated into the $54 million construction project.

“I'm disappointed with Point Park's plans,” said Ellen Kitzerow, chairwoman of the Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh, noting the three doomed buildings contribute to the Fourth Avenue Historic District, once the city's center of finance and banking.

Kitzerow was one of four people who voiced opposition to the project at a Planning Commission hearing.

John Valentine, executive director of the Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corp., said, “It takes an area that had very few people and turns it into a very vibrant neighborhood.”

The plans include a 550-seat main theater, 200-seat adaptive theater and 100-seat black box theater. The facility would include a large outdoor terrace and adjoin the existing University Center. Point Park plans to refurbish the adjacent Pittsburgh Stock Exchange building.

“With over 220 nights of activity annually, this stretch of Forbes Avenue will be a critical connector for Market Square and the Grant Street corridor,” said Jeremy Waldrup, executive director of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

The Planning Commission approved a request to require permits to park between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on sections of Melwood and Morewood avenues, along with Denver and Broughton streets, in Oakland and Bloomfield. Signs will be posted. A city survey found that, on average, 97 percent of the area's 129 on-street spaces are occupied between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., with about two-thirds being used by nonresidents.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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