Pittsburgh's Children's Museum considers $20M makeover of former Carnegie Library branch
The former Allegheny branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh could get a $20 million makeover as a venue for older youths.
The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh is considering whether to annex the 1890s-era library, which has been empty since lightning decimated its clock tower and the library system deemed the 45,000-square-foot facility too costly to keep.
Jane Werner, executive director of the museum, said this week that the museum's attendance mushroomed to 267,000 last year, up from 86,000 a decade ago when its Lantern Building opened in the North Side. Starting new programming could help continue the growth, she said.
Architect John Radelet is studying the feasibility and cost of repairing the old library.
“We don't want to overpromise because if we find the building is too expensive to run, we have to be very realistic about it,” Werner said.
Museum Deputy Director Chris Siefert estimates the renovation would cost more than $20 million — exceeding the museum's endowment. But not to worry, Siefert said: The museum has raised $2 million for the remodeling and has a “track record of success” with large projects.
In Allegheny Center, the library building is still home to the New Hazlett Theater and a city senior center. The landmark is one of the first of thousands of libraries constructed around the world in the late 19th and early 20th century with donations from Pittsburgh steel magnate Andrew Carnegie.
Glenn Walsh, a preservationist who attended a tour of the building this month, said the library space appeared untouched since 2006. He delighted at the ringing of the building's clock tower bells, which Siefert said dated to the 1890s and hadn't resounded for decades.
The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation helped collect more than 7,000 signatures to prevent the city from tearing down the library.
The museum is partnering with community organizations that would be part of every phase of development and eventually occupy the building. Once the core and shell are in operating order, partners would be responsible for any special modifications to their allotted interior areas, Siefert said.
Museum officials met two weeks ago with community residents to discuss the project. “It's like a touchstone for the community,” Werner said. “It means so much to them.”If the museum decides to go forward, it would move into the library's first floor after raising $5.5 million to $7.5 million for the first phase of work. Siefert anticipates updating the building's mechanical systems to make it less expensive to operate and accessible for people with disabilities.
The city would continue to own the building, and the museum would pay for the renovation and upkeep in exchange for a long-term, no-cost lease. However, remodeling the facility isn't what Siefert is most concerned about.
“In this project, developing the programing is more challenging than in others, taking us out of our comfort zone,” Siefert said, “It is a nice challenge, and we think we are up to it.”
Elizabeth Daley is a freelance writer. Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
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.
- Burial set for remains of World War II soldier from city
- More departments in region eye equipping officers with Narcan to treat overdoses
- Faithful stand together in Wilkinsburg
- McCandless mortgage broker company president charged with bank fraud conspiracy
- Port Authority focusing on natural-gas bus fleet for proposed rapid transit line
- New Monroeville Mall policy aims to tame teen shoppers
- Region tied 81-year-old record low Saturday
- Newsmaker: Dai Morgan
- Pittsburgh police chief: Officers, public must unite against violence
- 3-alarm fire burns Hill District row homes
- Black Pittsburghers still challenged in education, workforce, housing