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Church lot eyed for office building

By Ron DaParma
Friday, May 26, 2006

A Pittsburgh developer said Thursday it plans to build a nine-story office building designed to house medical offices and other institutional tenants at Bigelow Boulevard and Ruskin Avenue in Oakland.

The Elmhurst Group, Downtown, said the 143,000-square-foot Schenley Place complex is targeted for a parking lot owned by and adjacent to the First Baptist Church.

Construction is expected to begin as early as the fall, with the building ready for occupancy by 2008. The cost of the project has not been determined.

“During the past several years, we have focused our company’s attention on Oakland because of the strong economic generators of the universities and medical centers,” said Elmhurst President Bill Hunt.

Elmhurst’s projects include the fully occupied, six-story Rand Corp. building near St. Paul Cathedral at Fifth Avenue and Craig Street in Oakland.

It is in negotiations with Select Medical Corp., a Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County-based operator of specialty health care hospitals, to be a tenant for about 85,000 square feet.

Fully occupied, the building will be home to about 225 jobs, Hunt estimated. The project will include three levels of underground parking.

Elmhurst’s Schenley Place proposal drew objections at a recent hearing before the Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission from the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation and some residents of the Schenley Farms area.

“It is our opinion the building does not meet the criteria for the Oakland Civic Center Historic District in terms of scale, size, design or context,” Cathy McCollom, the foundation’s chief program officer, said yesterday.

The group does not object to erecting a building on the site, but suggests a smaller structure, with only about 64,000 square feet, as an alternative.

“We will work very hard with the community and the Historic Review Commission to make sure the building’s design and architecture blends with the rest of the Schenley Farms neighborhood, and the adjacent properties, including the First Baptist Church,” Hunt said.

Elmhurst believes the size of the building is permitted by zoning regulations, he said.

Ron DaParma can be reached at or 412-320-7907.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633