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Allegheny County Health Department building sale expected

| Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2009, 12:00 p.m.

An Allegheny County committee is expected tonight to approve the sale of the Health Department building in Oakland.

The four-story building at 3333 Forbes Ave. would be sold for $4.9 million to a group of four developers who plan to demolish it and build a hotel, office building, classrooms and parking garage.

"The building itself is in disrepair," said county Councilman Mike Finnerty, D-Scott, who chairs the Committee on Economic Development & Housing. "That's the biggest reason for selling it. It would cost us a fortune to renovate that place."

Sixty Health Department employees have offices in the building, on its third and fourth floors, including Director Bruce Dixon, epidemiology, emergency preparedness and response, and human resources. The lower two floors have been vacant since 2000, when juvenile court offices moved out.

"We don't know where we might go or when we might have to leave," said Health Department spokesman Guillermo Cole, who works in the building. "We have not been told."

A development group composed of Massaro Properties LLC, Langholz Wilson Ellis Inc., Kratsa Properties and Tasso Katselas Associates Inc. plans to buy the property. The developers referred phone calls to Gary Wilson at Langholz Wilson Ellis. He could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Finnerty said county officials haven't decided where to move the Health Department employees, though he mentioned the Clack Health Center campus in Lawrenceville as a possibility. County spokesman Kevin Evanto said another possibility is to rent space in the new building on Forbes Avenue, which might be built before the old one is demolished.

"We're still trying to figure that out," Evanto said. "The development of that property will take probably a year or two, so we have some time."

The Health Department has occupied the building since 1975.

Cole said the Clack Health Center has limited vacant space, mostly in a building that housed a day care center until 2003.

"That would have to be remodeled," Cole said. "That's a day care center; it's not office space."

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