Property Watch: Croatian building façade may front new Pitt building

Rendering of possible use of facade at 3441 Forbes Ave.

The façade of the former Croatian Fraternal Union building at 3441 Forbes Ave., which served until 2017 as home to the Allegheny County Health Department, would be used as a decorative entrance to a new Pitt building under plans presented to the Oakland Planning and Development Corp. on May 25.

Pitt purchased the building in July 2018 for $1.9 million and the adjacent building, which has since been torn down, for $1 million in 2016. The initial plan had been to demolish both buildings and save as many as 12 pieces of the ornate façade or the Croatian Union building. Scott Bernotas, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management, said in 2018 that the Croatian Union building, which was built in 1928, was beyond saving.

In October 2018, Preservation Pittsburgh and the Croatian Fraternal Union nominated the property for historic designation. The nomination was accepted by the Historic Review Commission, putting initial plans for demolition on hold.

The nomination form says the building is “an innovative and markedly rare commercial interpretation of the Flemish Gothic style in Pittsburgh.” It was occupied by the Croation Fraternal Order from 1928 to 1961. The Young Preservationist Association of Pittsburgh says, “While no longer the home of the CFU, this building has architectural and social significance to the local Croatian immigrant population and all of Pittsburgh.”

The plan presented by Mary Beth McGrew, associate vice chancellor for Planning, Design and Real Estate, calls for the façade to be removed in pieces and stored it in a climate-controlled facility, while the rest of the building is demolished. The façade would be connected to a new building to create an entry portal into a courtyard.

The new building would be less dominant than the façade, McGrew said, “so the façade captures your attention and have it finished enough to spike your curiosity as to why something that was clearly built in another era is being preserved today.”

See a recording of the presentation about the building and about Pitt’s stormwater plans on the OPDC website.

5051 Centre Ave.

Rob Rutenbar kneels to sign steel beam

On May 25, the final beam was put in place on a new 105,000-square-foot office building being built next to the former Ford assembly plant in Bloomfield. Both building are being developed by Wexford Science + Technology and will be leased to Pitt and UPMC for life sciences research space.

The original 250,000-square-foot building and the four-story addition will house Pitt laboratories and offices, an event space, conference rooms, a 250-seat auditorium, and a restaurant and cafe with parking below, according to the Tribune-Review. The project is expected to be completed in early 2022.

CMU development

At the eastern end of Forbes Avenue in Oakland, Carnegie Mellon University is planning to build a $210 million science building on the southeast corner of Forbes Avenue and Craig Street, next door to the Carnegie Museums. CMU will use half of a record $150 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to help finance the new building.

— Susan Jones


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