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Allegheny County Courthouse plans renovations

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 10:15 p.m.
A man walks down the grand staircase at the Allegheny County Courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Photo taken March 6, 2013. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Water spots reveal some problems inside the Allegheny County Courthouse in downtown Pittsburgh. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald was joined by former county cheif James C. Roddey and ex-commissioners Bob Cranmer, Mike Dawida and Barbara Hafer to announce the formation of an Advisory Committee for Courthouse Restoration & 125/225 Anniversary Celebration. Photo taken March 6, 2013. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said Wednesday he is planning to renovate the 125-year-old historic courthouse but has few details on the extent of the renovations, the cost or how the county will pay for it.

Fitzgerald introduced a committee of current and former county officials, including former Executives Dan Onorato and Jim Roddey, who will study potential renovation projects at the Grant Street edifice.

“I don't think it will be from the county budget. We're looking for private foundation money, state and corporate donations,” Fitzgerald said. “We're going to do the renovations as quickly as we can; as quickly as we can pay for it. There might be some capital money (from the county).”

He estimated renovations would cost “tens of millions of dollars.”

Fitzgerald didn't lay out any specific projects but mentioned problems with a leaky roof, old windows and the heating and ventilation system.

“The first things are the roof and the HVAC system,” said Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, a member of the committee. “I've been in this courtroom 20 years, and that pillar right outside the door has been rehabbed four to five times because of the leaking roof.”

The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation has worked with the county to restore the building, including first-floor murals, benches and light fixtures.

Fitzgerald's spokeswoman, Amie Downs, said the county is paying 50 percent of the costs to fix the ornate cornice on the City-County Building, across Forbes Avenue. Downs said that money had been allocated and won't affect courthouse renovations. City officials said last year it would cost $4 million to fix the crumbling cornice.

The courthouse, designed by famous architect Henry Hobson Richardson, was completed in April 1888, though Richardson had died. The rounded arches and open-air courtyard showcase a maze of windows and ornate stairwells and is considered Richardson's defining building. It was built for $2.34 million to replace the courthouse destroyed by fire in 1882.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 and bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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