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January 23, 1997

Hearing set on historic landmark nomination for two Pitt buildings

Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission will conduct a hearing on the proposed designation of Pennsylvania Hall and the Mineral Industries Building as historic landmarks on Feb. 7 at its 1 p.m. session in the conference room of 200 Ross Street.

The hearing is being conducted in response to the nomination of the two buildings for historic status by a city resident, Jay Roling, Pitt's director of local relations, told Senate Council's plant utilization and planning committee (PUP) at its Jan. 13 meeting.

Roling said that the University opposes historic designation for the two pre-World War I structures because it plans to demolish them. The hillside on which the buildings stand was identified in the mid-range (10-year) portion of the University's 20-year master space plan as a possible location for the construction of small student residence halls.

According to Roling, any Pittsburgh resident can nominate any building in the city for historic designation. Pennsylvania Hall, built in 1911, and the Mineral Industries Building, built in 1912, were nominated in October.

A preliminary hearing was conducted by the Historic Review Commission in late October to determine the validity of the nomination and the Feb. 7 hearing set to hear testimony on the subject. Roling said a preliminary hearing is conducted in such cases "to see if the nomination has any merit at all, that it is not a neighborhood vendetta" in which one neighbor is seeking to cause problems for another neighbor by having a building designated historic.

Both Pennsylvania Hall and the Mineral Industries Building lie outside of the Oakland Civic Historic District, which is roughly centered around the Cathedral of Learning. Properties within the district require approval from the Historic Review Commission before they can be altered.

Pitt buildings in the historic district, according to the master space plan, are Allen, Bellefield, Clapp, Ruskin, Thackerary and Thaw halls, the Cathedral of Learning, Frick Fine Arts, Gardner Steel Conference Center, Heinz Memorial Chapel, Music Building, Schenley Fountain, Schenley Quadrangle, Stephen Foster Memorial, William Pitt Union and 121 University Place.

Following the hearing by the Historic Review Commission, a hearing on Pennsylvania Hall and the Mineral Industries Building also will be conducted by the city Planning Commission, according to Roling. No date has as yet been set for that meeting.

"And then both bodies make a recommendation to City Council, so there will be a City Council hearing on it, too," Roling added.

In other business: * Roling told PUP that the University has become involved with the newly formed Oakland Business Improvement District (BID). The purpose of the group is to direct tax money collected in Oakland into central Oakland improvement projects.

According to Roling, BID is in the "very embryonic" stages and it is not known as yet what types of improvement projects may be undertaken. Nor is it known how much money will be available, but it is expected to be $200,000-$300,000.

* PUP learned that the Historic Review Commission has rejected the University's design for a sidewalk railing on the Fifth Avenue side of the Cathedral of Learning.

The design submitted by Pitt called for square horizontal pipes and vertical support posts with decorative caps, according to Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Management Ana Guzman. The commission suggested decorative posts with chains.

Facilities Management is working on a new design, Guzman said.

* Guzman also informed PUP that the University has received a $16,200 grant from Allegheny County to promote recycling at the University.

* PUP was told by Director of Parking and Transportation Bob Harkins that no decisions have been made on the possible permanent closing of the block of Bigelow Boulevard between the Cathedral of Learning and the William Pitt Union.

Harkins said that scheduling conflicts have prevented the University and the city from meeting to discuss traffic data collected during the test closing of Bigelow in September and October.

–Mike Sajna

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