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Point Park restoring buildings

y Ron DaParma
Wednesday, March 9, 2005

The ability to combine new facilities with historic buildings is becoming a specialty at Point Park University.
Evidence includes a recently completed $2.8 million television studio and production project at the Downtown school’s historic University Center and the soon-to-begin $1 million first-phase restoration of Lawrence Hall, a building housing dormitories, classrooms, offices and dance studios.

“We’re really combining historic preservation and renovation with contemporary student needs,” said Point Park President Katherine Henderson on Tuesday. “These projects also enhance Downtown, both historically and aesthetically.”

Point Park’s efforts have support from the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, Mellon Financial Corp. and the Allegheny Foundation, chaired by Richard M. Scaife, owner of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Those organizations all provided funding support for the upcoming Lawrence Hall project.

“We are very pleased with Point Park’s attention to the historic nature of its campus buildings,” said Arthur P. Ziegler Jr., president of Landmarks Foundation, which provided a $12,000 grant to help develop a restoration plan and budget.

Allegheny Foundation added a lead grant of $100,000 to initiate a restoration campaign, and then Mellon Financial kicked another $150,000 to the funding mix, with Point Park funds supporting the rest.

The building, which is located across Wood Street and connected via an enclosed walkway from Point Park’s Academic Hall, originally was built in 1928 as the Keystone Athletic Club, and later converted into the Sherwyn Hotel. It was acquired by Point Park in 1967 and renamed in honor of former Pennsylvania governor and Pittsburgh Mayor David L. Lawrence.

Designed by Janssen and Cocken, a well-known Pittsburgh-based architectural firm that also fashioned such Pittsburgh landmarks as the Mellon Institute and the Pittsburgh Athletic Association, the building is notable not only for its Gothic architecture style, but also its distinctive Art Deco third floor ballroom, Ziegler said.

Expected to begin in May, the first phase will reclaim the historic appearance of the first-floor lobby and the exterior facade. Plans include replacement of a series of arched windows on Wood Street and Third Avenue, cleaning of the limestone exterior and relocation of the Wood Street entrance to align with the interior grand staircase.

The project, designed by Landmarks Design Associates of Pittsburgh, will bring in more natural light, and add amenities like an expanded bookstore and additional first-floor student lounge space. The work will improve the atmosphere for the school’s 3,200 students and more than 300 staff and faculty members.

The work also will include addition of a second entrance on Wood Street and restoration of the outside sidewalk. Later phases over the next several years will include more expensive infrastructure and mechanical systems improvements, Henderson said.

The university’s new television studio and production facilities have been available for use by students and faculty in Point Park’s broadcasting program since January.

The studios, which Point Park officials say rival professional facilities, are tucked in a corner of the school’s University Center, a Wood Street complex that in the early 1900s housed five adjacent bank buildings and later, an urban shopping mall known as the Bank Center.

From 1997 until 2004, the complex housed the joint library collections of Point Park and the Downtown & Business Branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. That was after a restoration that preserved the building’s historic and architectural details, which include marble staircases, an elaborate bronze clock and restored walk-in bank vaults.

The university developed new plans for the facility once the Carnegie last year decided to relocate its collection to another Downtown location on Smithfield Street.

“It is important that faculty members are able to teach students in an environment in which they will be working professionally one day,” said Jan Getz, broadcaster-in residence in Point Park’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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