$100M redevelopment outlined for former Iron City brewery

Bob Bauder
| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

A $100 million plan for the former Iron City brewery complex in Lawrenceville includes a 100-room hotel, 150 apartments, shops and restaurants, the developer says.

South Fayette-based Collier Development plans to develop the nine acres, which Pittsburgh leaders designated a historic landmark, over a decade and to seek public funding, spokesman Tim Frew said.

Before it can request subsidies, however, Collier needs community approval of its plans. Leaders say that's unlikely until the company and neighbors resolve differences that include a fight over recent demolitions.

“We still have a lot of ground to make up before we can say this is a community-approved master plan,” said Matthew Galluzzo, executive director of the civic group Lawrenceville Corp.

A district judge fined Collier $20,000 this summer for failing to have a permit and violating the historic designation by tearing down two buildings. The company appealed the fine.

On Tuesday, Senior Common Pleas Judge Robert C. Gallo upheld the ruling but cleared Collier of violating the historic designation and reduced the fine to $8,500. Collier Development previously paid a $150 fine for tearing down about 20 feet of a smokestack on the property, which Frew said was about to collapse. He said the company intends to rebuild the stack.

The company is working with people in the neighborhood to reach agreement on the plans, he said.

“We want to work with the community. We want to do what's best for the community as a whole,” he said.

Iron City Brewing Co. moved beer production from the 19th-century complex to Latrobe in 2009 and sold the brewery and land in separate transactions this year. Collier Development bought the property for $1.725 million. It is leasing office space to Pittsburgh Brewing Co., which purchased the brewery label and continues to produce Iron City Beer in Latrobe.

Collier Development, owned by brothers Jack and Jim Cargoni, wants residential, office and retail space. It would restore the brewery buildings lining Liberty Avenue, including the 1886 Iron City office as a brewery museum; the oldest building, the 1884 Brew House; an 1896 keg storage facility; and several storage buildings.

Collier Development plans to demolish at least six buildings to make room for the hotel, residential and office buildings, and an 800-space garage, Frew said. Three other buildings potentially could be razed, depending on structural integrity, Frew said.

The company needs approval from the Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission and City Council to take down buildings.

“We're going to save as many as possible that are going to be useful,” Frew said.

In the plan are a large courtyard, an outdoor market, ground-level shops and restaurants. Collier Development intends to surround the smokestack with a reflecting pool. A glass-enclosed bridge and stairway would connect the complex with Herron Avenue and nearby railroad tracks.

Frew said the total cost would exceed $100 million, although he can't specify a figure.

Several neighbors oppose the plan because of expected demolitions.

“What makes that complex so special are the old buildings,” said Keith Cochran, a Lawrenceville architect and member of the Lawrenceville United civic group's historic preservation committee. “It would seem that a developer that would buy that site with all of the historic buildings and the historical preservation placed on it would be interested in working with the old buildings.”

City Councilman Patrick Dowd, whose district will include Lawrenceville next year, said he hopes Collier Development succeeds in redeveloping the site but thinks the company must build a better relationship with residents.

“The buildings themselves are not the fundamental issue,” he said. “The fundamental issue is the need for trust and confidence between the community and the developer.”

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

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