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City to accept loan to fix Market Street building

By Mark Belko,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Murphy administration has agreed to accept a loan from the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation to repair a dilapidated city-owned building at 439 Market St., Downtown, after an adjacent property owner threatened to go to court to force action.

In a letter on Tuesday, History & Landmarks President Arthur P. Ziegler Jr. offered to lend the city up to $33,000 to repair the roof of the four-story building and clean up the inside to prevent the vacant structure from being demolished.

The offer came after the attorney for the owners of an adjacent building at 435 Market, which houses Ciao Baby restaurant, threatened to seek a court order to force repairs or the demolition of 439 Market, declaring that a “public emergency” existed.

In her letter to city Solicitor Jacqueline Morrow, attorney Linda Leebov Goldston said the roof of the building has collapsed, the floors are gone, and the exterior walls are bowed and in danger of falling. She said the building and Market Square in general are plagued by rats.

Ziegler made his offer of an interest-free loan to make repairs with the stipulation that the building and two others — one at 441 Market and the old Regal Shoe Co. store at Market and Fifth Avenue — be preserved. The foundation also wanted approval over any exterior design done as part of a redevelopment.

In his letter yesterday to Ziegler, Tom Cox, Murphy’s executive secretary, said the city would accept the loan but did not state specifically whether it agreed to the stipulations.

Cox also said the city would accept a no-interest, “unlimited term” loan; the foundation had offered a maximum term of two years.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Chief Programs Officer Cathy McCollom said the foundation was “delighted” that the city accepted the loan but added there were still details to work out.

In accepting the loan, the city in effect rejected an offer by the foundation to take ownership of 439 Market as well as 441 Market and the Regal Shoe building, both owned by the city Urban Redevelopment Authority.

The city and authority apparently are holding the buildings while awaiting a plan to redevelop the Fifth and Forbes retail corridor.

The foundation, in trying to save the structures, acted on behalf of Preservation Pittsburgh, which has plans for a “transit cafe” in the Regal Shoe building, which was designed by Alden & Harlow, one of the city’s most prominent architectural firms in the early 20th century.

Preservation Pittsburgh also is interested in the adjoining buildings at 439 and 441 Market, saying both have good facades that ought to be preserved.

Rick Butts, co-owner of Ciao Baby restaurant, questioned whether roof work at 439 Market would be enough. He said the building appears to have significant structural damage and may not be capable of holding a new roof without other repairs.

City Councilman William Peduto said he hopes to introduce a bill this month accepting the foundation loan.

(Mark Belko can be reached at or 412-263-1262.)
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This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. © Pittsburgh Post Gazette

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