Wednesday, January 31, 2007

'Market at Fifth' center of Downtown makeover - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The root of the problem: piecemeal.
'Market at Fifth' center of Downtown makeover - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 'They didn't want to do it piecemeal,' he said.
I'm a big fan of piecemeal. Walk before running. Crawl before walking.

The distinction is between "whole" and "hole." Or, wholistic and holistics.

Ex-Mayor Murphy grow to be all about mega developments. They choked the city. They were too big. They were growing city governement, something that is already too big.

Rather, more marketplace respect is needed. The city needed to rush to get out of the way of private investments.

It is great that the existing buildings were saved. It is great that the Pgh History & Landmarks is doing a deal. It is great to have Tom Murphy out of government.

The funny thing about these concepts came from an elevator ride I once had with the guys from Chicago who were in town to work with Tom Murphy's concept of a downtown mall with cinemas and Nordstroms. They were from Urban Retail Properties. They and Murphy talked about the need for an 'anchor.' They thought there was a need to subsidize the biggest businesses. The guy said that the development needed 'a whale.' And, that the public funds would have to feed this whale.

No joke.

Their thoughts claimed that once Pittsburgh bagged a whale, then all the other fish in the sea would somehow follow and create specialized, small business outlets.

I told him whales eat plankton and that he should take his blueprints and back to sixth grade science class.


Anonymous said...

By Ron DaParma
Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A trio of deteriorated but historically significant buildings once in the crosshairs of a city wrecking ball now are part of plans to revitalize Downtown.

The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation plans to join the vacant buildings on the edge of Market Square as "Market at Fifth," a $2.5 million to $3 million complex that will include a ground-level restaurant or retail store, seven upper-floor apartments and a rooftop garden.

"This is purely a do-good project," said Arthur P. Ziegler Jr., foundation president.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks is assuming a role as a city developer nearly three decades after transforming a group of historic Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad Station buildings in the South Side into the Station Square complex that attracts about 3 million people annually.

"We're engaged here in an act of significant preservation because of the nature and location of these buildings," Ziegler said.

For years, the South Side-based foundation fought to save what it considered significant buildings in the city's Fifth-Forbes retail corridor, particularly after former Mayor Tom Murphy proposed revitalization plans that included substantial demolition.

Among those targeted were:

• 439 Market St., the fire-damaged, four-story former home of the Alexander's Graham Bell bar

• 441 Market St., four stories, which still bears its "Novelties" store sign

• 130 Fifth Ave., the two-story former Regal Shoe Co. with a noteworthy architectural bloodline

"All three are significant buildings," Ziegler said, and all are within the Market Square historic district.

The 439 Market and 441 Market structures are examples of Victorian commercial buildings, constructed in Italianate style in the late 1880s, said Ziegler and Al Tannler, the foundation's historian.

The Regal Shoes building, which opened in 1908, was designed by Alden & Harlow, then one of city's prominent architectural firms, responsible for the Carnegie Institute and Library additions in Oakland and Carnegie branch libraries in various communities.

The building's chief designer was one of the firm's principals, Frank E. Alden, who in the late 1800s worked with architect H.H. Richardson, supervising construction of such noteworthy Downtown buildings as the Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail, Tannler said.

After more than a decade of failed city redevelopment efforts, the foundation -- in the final year of the three-term Murphy administration -- secured an agreement from then-Deputy Mayor Tom Cox to accept its offer to pay $33,000 to physically stabilize the 1870s-vintage 439 Market building so it wouldn't crumble to the ground.

The foundation stepped in after the cash-strapped city said it couldn't afford to fix it, and wanted to tear it down for safety reasons.

"Still, nothing happened," said Ziegler -- until Mayor Bob O'Connor took office in 2006 and decided to allow multiple private developers to redevelop city-owned properties.

When O'Connor died last year, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl continued that strategy. Focused more heavily on residential development than on retail, the city's Downtown development effort is led by Washington County's Millcraft Industries Inc., PNC Financial Services Group and its representative, Oxford Development Co.

"Things are really moving forward now," said Jerome Dettore, executive director of the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Dettore said the Murphy administration delayed doing something with the buildings because it believed the city needed to retain a number of buildings it could to turn over to one master developer.

"They didn't want to do it piecemeal," he said.

"I'm thrilled with the (foundation's) plan," said Mino Fazio, co-owner and executive chef of Ciao Baby in Market Square.

Fazio's Italian restaurant at 435 Market is adjacent to the 439 Market building. From his building's roof, one can look inside the neighboring structure, whose roof collapsed several years ago.

"For years the city did nothing, but it's going to be great to see things finally getting fixed up Downtown," he said.

In December, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks won the redevelopment authority's approval to buy the three buildings for $257,000. It hopes to start work once it obtains other city approvals, possibly within two months, Ziegler said. The city Historic Review Commission will review the project Feb. 7.

Market at Fifth will be an example of how to renovate historic buildings according to environmentally-friendly "green building" standards, said Ellis Schmidlapp, architect for the project.

The work will include recyclable building materials and energy-efficient mechanical systems. The rooftop garden, accessible from two units, will absorb moisture and reduce water run-off.

"This will be important in showing in the Fifth-Forbes corridor how a restoration/adaptive use project can be part of a revitalization," said Schmidlapp, principal in South Side-based Landmark Design Associates.

"It will preserve three historic buildings, and put them back into productive use."

Ron DaParma can be reached at or 412-320-7907.

Anonymous said...

It's refreshing to hear that section of town referred to something else besides the 'fifth-forbes corridor'. I've been going downtown for years (I actually remember it being called fifth avenue and forbes avenue - sometimes street) and canh tell ya that the 'fifth-forbes corridor' designation didn't happen until the area became an eyesore and businesses closed. Hopefully town is on the right track, but I am honestly doubtful.