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Point Park hopes to retain facades

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Point Park University will try to preserve the ornamental facades of three early 20th Century buildings on Forbes Avenue, Downtown, if the city approves demolition for construction of a new Pittsburgh Playhouse, officials said on Tuesday.

Contractors plan to remove tile, stone and other architectural adornments and reuse them as decorations in the $53 million playhouse complex, said university architect Elmer Burger. He said the other buildings at 320, 322 and 330 Forbes Ave. would be torn down.

“As much as we can save, we want to save,” Burger said.

He said the decorative material could be incorporated into doorways, courtyards and a grand staircase in the new building.

University officials briefed the Pittsburgh Planning Commission on the project. The commission, which must approve demolitions in the Golden Triangle, is scheduled to vote on the matter July 23.

The project includes a 500-seat main theater, two smaller “black box” theaters totaling 350 seats, a sound stage and space for classrooms, scene construction, painting and props. Point Park intends to renovate a former bank building at 414 Wood St. and the former Pittsburgh Stock Exchange at 333 Fourth Ave. as part of the project, said Mariann K. Geyer, the university's vice president for external affairs.

The bank building houses the university library and cinema digital arts program. The stock exchange could house a cafe, among other things, Burger said.

Geyer said demolition, if approved, should start this year and construction in 2014 or 2015. The university plans to relocate the Pittsburgh Playhouse from Oakland.

“A lot of (the timing) will depend on fundraising,” Geyer said.

The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation dates the Forbes Avenue buildings to 1910, 1911 and 1915. The building at 320 Forbes was built as the Royal Theater and later housed the former Honus Wagner Co. sporting goods store. Burger said its facade would be used in a public courtyard on Forbes.

“We like the fact that they're trying to maintain the architectural character of the neighborhood and incorporate as much of the facades as they can,” said Karamagi Rujumba, project director for the foundation.

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

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