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Planners review North Side stable development

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Mike Wereschagin
Monday, July 9, 2007

A North Side building being considered for historic designation by City Council could someday give new meaning to the phrase “stable living arrangements.”

The Allegheny Stables, built by Allegheny City leaders as a place to house their Department of Public Works horses, appears poised for designation as a historic structure. If City Council approves the designation at its July 17 meeting, the building would be saved from possible demolition, clearing the way for developers to turn it into condominiums.

“It is one of the last vestiges of the City of Allegheny’s history,” said Mark Fatla, executive director of the Northside Leadership Conference.

The building, in the 800 block of West North Avenue in the neighborhood of Allegheny West, is owned by Rutledge Equipment Co., according to Allegheny County real estate records. Menzock Scrap Inc., which owns a tiny scrap yard behind the former stables, wanted to buy and raze the building so the yard could be expanded, Fatla said.

Neither Rutledge Equipment nor Menzock Scrap could be reached for comment.

The former stables are surrounded by Victorian-era industrial buildings. Companies today prefer one-story, open floor plans to the old style of thin, multi-floor designs of the other buildings on the street. As a result, they’ve sat vacant for years, said Jim Wallace, chairman of the Allegheny West Civic Council’s Housing and Planning Committee.

But the old, detailed style of architecture common to the street and its proximity to Downtown, Heinz Field and PNC Park make the area ripe for loft-style apartments and condominiums, Fatla said.

That is, if neighborhood advocates can keep the buildings from being knocked down.

Preservationists and community leaders ultimately want the area designated as a historic neighborhood, which they said would preserve its unique architecture. Since the Allegheny Stables were in danger of being demolished first, the group started there — and got the blessing of the city’s planning and historic preservation commissions.

“People have returned to these neighborhoods for something they can’t get anywhere else,” Fatla said. “More and more homes are getting restored.”

The next step is organizing development of the entire block. Otherwise, once one condominium is finished, the first residents would have only abandoned industrial buildings as neighbors.

Should no one be keen on living in a former stable, Timothy G. Zinn, a co-author of the proposal for the building’s historic designation, urged them to consider this: It was a really nice stable.

“This would have been like a horse palace, almost,” said Zinn, 43, a historic preservationist with the Michael Baker Corp. architectural firm. “This had to be the most well-appointed of all the stable buildings. There’s nice architectural detailing and wonderful brickwork.”

Zinn said state records indicate 15 stables were built throughout Allegheny City, which became part of Pittsburgh after a controversial annexation in 1907.

The rest of the stables “were not like this,” Zinn said. “This was certainly the most grand structure.”

Mike Wereschagin can be reached at or (412) 391-0927.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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