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Structure to be razed

By Tony LaRussa
Thursday, December 8, 2005

The Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission Wednesday agreed to allow part of a historic three-story building off Market Square to be demolished, though its unique facade will be preserved.

Although it is not known who designed the 130-year-old brick building at 439 Market St., it and an adjacent “twin” are the only structures remaining in the region that have decorative cast-iron window heads and sills, according to Cathy McCollom, chief program officer for the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.

The commission voted unanimously to allow the city, which owns the Downtown building, to hire a contractor to tear down the structure’s buckling rear wall and gut the interior. Most of the roof already has collapsed, which caused it to become structurally unsound.

“From a building inspector’s perspective, I would recommend total demolition — it’s an accident waiting to happen,” said commission member Ron Graziano, who heads the city’s Bureau of Building Inspection.

Graziano and the rest of the seven-member board supported a proposal by the city’s engineering and construction department to shore up the building’s side walls with bracing and construct a temporary roof and rear wall that would be replaced once a development plan is in place for the area.

Graziano suggested that board members who raised concerns about the look of the temporary rear wall not be “too picky” since any permanent changes would have to be approved by the commission. The commission is responsible for approving exterior designs to any buildings in city historic districts that are visible from public rights of way. The rear of the building is along Graeme Street.

Landmarks and the historic preservation group, Preserve Pittsburgh, supported partial demolition of the building. Landmarks, which previously offered to take over a number of Market Square buildings so they can be preserved, recently offered the city a no-interest loan of up to $75,000 to help pay for the work.

That should be more than enough. Al Kovacik, of the city’s engineering and construction department, said the partial demolition and reinforcement work would cost between $29,000 and $42,000. The cost for tearing the whole building down is estimated at about $55,000.

“With the approval of this plan, the city can spare a historic facade and save money at the same time,” Kovacik said.

Tony LaRussa can be reached at or .

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review © Pittsburgh Tribune Review

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