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HRC Gives Conditional Nod to Apartments in Old Uptown School

Thursday, June 03, 2010
By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Historic Review Commission Wednesday conditionally approved the plans of an investment group to renovate the former Fifth Avenue High School, Uptown, into 65 rental lofts.

Casey Steiner and Jonathan Hill, on behalf of the new owner, an investment partnership called LMS 5th LP, said they propose to restore the exterior to national historic standards and build a new parking lot of two levels, the higher about 3.5 feet above sidewalk level on the Fifth Avenue side to be accessible to the handicapped.

Provided financing “falls into place,” Mr. Steiner said, work on the 5th Avenue School Lofts could be under way by fall. “We’re pretty confident.”

The market, he said, is graduate students, empty nesters, people who work Downtown, in Oakland, at Mercy Hospital and Duquesne University.

The commission’s conditions are that the development partners provide more detail of the composition of concrete facing on the parking deck, screening of the deck and railings.

The investors provided historic planner Katherine Molnar proof of approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior, which is charged with upholding historic standards. The former school is a nationally designated historic structure, and the investment will receive federal historic tax credits.

Mr. Steiner, president of Impakt Development, said the partnership paid $640,000 last year for the building from Excel Kitchens, which operated out of a small part of the school, which was built in 1894, closed in 1976 and was otherwise empty that long.

In other matters, the commission approved Eat’n Park Hospitality Group’s plan to build a restaurant in Schenley Plaza, nearest where Forbes Avenue and Pennant Place meet.

The building will have two living walls, a green roof on which herbs and vegetables will be grown for the restaurant and a rain barrel will collect water. It will be one-story, built of limestone, red cedar, a metal canopy, glass and stacked stone. Facing the park, it will have a “transitional patio” — covered but without walls, said Mark Broadhurst of the Eat’n Park Hospitality Group. It has not been named but will not be called Eat’n Park, he said.

The project is being financed by the hospitality group, said Mr. Broadhurst. The group will lease from the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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