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First Baptist Church Hearing Today

September, 25, 2006
Pittsburgh, PA

Today, the Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission heard testimony on the disposition of the First Baptist Church parkign lot.

Included was a letter written by Landmarks President Arthur P. Ziegler, which expressed concern about the proposed design submitted by the Elmhurst Group and Burt Hill Kosar Rittleman Associates Architects.

Below is the letter.

September 25, 2006
Michael Eversmeyer
Historic Review Commission
City of Pittsburgh Department of City Planning
200 Ross Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Dear Mike:

I am writing on behalf of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation to oppose the design proposed by The Elmhurst Group and Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates Architects for the First Baptist Church parking lot. The design does not meet the New Construction Design Criteria for the Oakland Civic Center Historic District with regard to scale, materials, massing, sitting, and details, and would have a negative impact on the adjacent Schenley Farms Federal and City Historic Districts, and on the First Baptist Church. We recommend that Elmhurst revise its design in accordance with the following:

The site should have a building that is responsive to Bertram Goodhue’s building and the mixed residential and low scale institutional character of the Bayard- Bigelow neighborhood.

The First Baptist Church is a masterful interplay of massing with projecting transepts and a lower scaled parish hall along Bayard with a gabled end perpendicular to the main church. The new building should be designed with asymmetrical massing and detailing.

The setback from Bigelow should be the same as the parish house – this setback is standard for the houses on the north side of the street and this setback has been followed by all new buildings on the south side of the street. The setback from Ruskin should be in line with Ruskin Hall. Minor projections into the setback area, similar in scale to the porches and terraces on the houses on the north side of Bigelow should be incorporated into the design to offer the variation in massing that is an element of the character of this district.

The height should not exceed 55’ on the northern 2/3 of the site. This is the height of the cornice line of the church and the height of the two newer buildings proceeding west along Bigelow. The southern third of the site, from a line projected from the ridge of the church back to the south property line adjoining the Ruskin might be allowed to extend to 85’, the height of the ridge line, if handled expertly. The proposed design is grossly out-of-scale with the adjacent buildings.

Landmarks does not object to erecting a building on this site; indeed Bertram Goodhue designed one for precisely this site. In 2003 Landmarks commissioned a schematic architectural design for this site illustrating how one might place a compatible new building next to the church, taking into account the unexecuted Goodhue building and the character of the neighborhood. The schematic design provided for a 64,000 square foot office building with 142 parking spaces on three levels and met the new construction design criteria. A copy of the schematic design we commissioned is enclosed.

Yours sincerely,

Arthur P. Ziegler, Jr.


Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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