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Preservationist seeks delay in sale of land for library

Thursday, December 27, 2007
By Rich Lord,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A historic preservationist yesterday asked Pittsburgh City Council to withhold approval of a land sale that would allow the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to move its Allegheny Regional branch, warning that he and others may sue.

David Tessitor argued in a letter to Council President Doug Shields that because the old library is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, federal and state law demand that a study be done before it is altered.

He said he and others will “pursue legal remedies” should council approve the sale of a Central North Side plot to the library system without analysis of alternatives. The sale is on the agenda for council’s meeting today, and if not aproved would need to be reintroduced next year.

The Allegheny Regional branch in Allegheny Center was damaged by lightning in April 2006, and has been closed ever since. The library system wants to move it to the corner of Federal and Parkhurst streets, near the Federal North development.

“The longer the process goes on, the longer there isn’t library service,” said Suzanne Thinnes, communications manager for the library system. There is paperwork to be done even after the city approves the sale of the plot, now owned by its Urban Redevelopment Authority. “Barring any complications, or any unforeseen circumstances, the groundbreaking will occur in April.”

The old library, though repaired since the lightning strike, is inconvenient and inefficient, the library system has argued. It is now being used to house rare books and artifacts, and Ms. Thinnes said no decision has been made regarding its future. It is owned by the city.

“I guess we would all like to see the library stay in the library,” said Arthur Ziegler, president of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation. At the same time, he added, “We have to be sympathetic to the library’s economic situation. … I wish we had time to get to a global solution.”

Mr. Tessitor, of Allegheny West, and other activists engineered a Dec. 18 public hearing on the library’s fate. “That’s important to the federal courts, that you’ve done everything you can” before suing, he said.

Rich Lord can be reached at or 412-263-1542.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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