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Museum expansion get thumbs-up from city council

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The Westmoreland Museum of American Art has received final governmental approval for its expansion project.

On Monday, Greensburg City Council unanimously approved site and land development plans for the museum's proposed 12,500-square-foot expansion.

“I'm excited,” Judith O'Toole, museum director and CEO, said after the vote. “It's the last hurdle. The city of Greensburg has been a great partner for us.”

Rob DePasquale was the only member of council commenting on the project before the vote.

“It's very, very impressive ... and I thank you for the investment in the city,” he said.

The museum has received or will receive soon a highway occupancy permit from PennDOT and approval from the Westmoreland County Conservation District, museum and city officials said.

Only more-routine building and grading permits will be needed, Greensburg city planner Barbara Ciampini said.

“They're ready to roll,” she added.

The addition with a 60-foot cantilever is planned for the North Maple Avenue side of the museum in the $18 million project. Extensive landscaping is planned for an area to the front of the museum's main entrance.

The columns at the main door will be removed and replaced with a concrete scrim that will create a covered walkway. A keystone-shaped window will be set into the brick wall on the North Main Street side of the existing structure.

New galleries, classrooms, studios and public gathering spaces are planned.

Extensive grading will be done to the hillside in front of the main door to allow a greater view of the museum.

Museum officials have scheduled a ground breaking for July 12, with completion slated for May 2015, O'Toole said.

Museum officials wanted a design reflective of the time, O'Toole told council.

“We really wanted to see a building of the 21st century ... and a building that would invite people in,” she said.

The museum will use a temporary site for exhibiting some art and storage during construction. The site in the old Stickley furniture building on Route 30 in Unity will be called Westmoreland@rt 30.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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