Point Park U. raises curtain on new Pittsburgh Playhouse: 'It showcases what we do'
University gives details on five-story building Downtown that will replace Oakland site
December 4, 2014 11:26 PM
Point Park University
An architect's rendering of the new Pittsburgh Playhouse, on the east side of Forbes Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh.
Point Park University
An architect's rendering of the new Pittsburgh Playhouse that will be built Downtown shows an aerial view of the colonnade.
Actress Shirley Jones talks about what she learned at the old Pittsburgh Playhouse during Point Park University's release Thursday of the plans for the new playhouse, Downtown.
Point Park University president Paul Hennigan and actress Shirley Jones spoke Thursday during the unveiling of the new playhouse design.
Point Park University President Paul Hennigan talks about the view of the new Pittsburgh Playhouse colonnade, overlaid with a photo showing the original buildings, as he announces the design for the new Downtown building in the ballroom of Lawrence Hall.
Highmark vice president Dan Onorato at Point Park University's announcement of the design for the new Downtown Pittsburgh Playhouse.
By Clarece Polke / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
As a child, Kevin Acklin, chief of staff for Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, would sometimes sneak in the side door of the Pittsburgh Playhouse in Oakland to catch a glimpse of performances.
He recounted the first show he saw at the theater, “A Christmas Carol,” for a packed audience in the Lawrence Hall ballroom of Point Park University on Thursday morning. The group gathered as part of Point Park’s unveiling of designs and academic vision for the new Pittsburgh Playhouse in Downtown on Forbes Avenue between Smithfield and Wood streets.
The facility will incorporate the University Center and Stock Exchange Building. Buildings at 320, 322 and 330 Forbes Ave. will be deconstructed to make space for the playhouse, with the facades being incorporated as a “significant part” of the two-story courtyard of the playhouse.
The new, five-story building will contain three academic theater spaces, a sound stage, rehearsal studios, an orchestra pit, prop and costume shops, a large scene shop and a café, becoming the “heartbeat of downtown Pittsburgh,” university president Paul Hennigan said.
“We’re not aware of another theater space like it in the country,” Mr. Hennigan said. “It showcases what we do.”
The university has been planning the relocation of the playhouse from Oakland as part of the next phase of its $244 million Academic Village initiative.
To date, the university has raised about $45 million in funding, including $14 million from the university, $5 million from a state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant, $8 million from foundations and $18 million from corporations including the PNC Financial Services Group, the PNC Foundation and Highmark Health.
“I believe what’s happening here today is very important to the future of Pittsburgh,” Highmark Health president David Holmberg said. “Something special is happening in this city and what we’re doing, these plans are part of it.”
The cost of the entire project is estimated at $74 million, with the university looking to raise an additional $20 million and generate the rest through the sale of the Oakland property and gifts that are pending.
Several guests, including Academy Award-winning actress Shirley Jones, who attended the playhouse as a teenager, and state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District and a member of Point Park’s board of trustees, spoke of the project’s prominence in helping revitalize the area.
“I get almost tearful when I see that picture there,” Ms. Jones told attendees Thursday. “The playhouse is very near and dear to my heart, and I’m so thankful to the city and the university for reviving it.”
University officials expect to break ground in the spring, with completion scheduled for 2017.
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