Benedum Center to lease part of adjacent Clark Building

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The Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, Downtown, is preparing to expand -- but not by adding onto the storied theater.

Instead, the Benedum will lease part of the adjacent Clark Building on Liberty Avenue, where it plans to build banquet space, a donor's lounge and more restrooms.

City planning commission members Tuesday approved the construction of a pedestrian bridge to link the two buildings.

Sean Beasley, a Strada architect, said the improvements are expected to be made this year. He said the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, which owns the Benedum, and PMC Property Group, owner of the Clark Building, are in negotiations over a start date.

The 10-foot-long walkway will be built in an alley between the two buildings, connecting the Benedum mezzanine with the Clark Building's second floor.

Shaunda Miles, a Cultural Trust spokeswoman, said the primary reason for the expansion is to add restrooms for patrons.

The Benedum wasn't the only theater project on the planning commission's plate Tuesday.

Duquesne University also presented a proposal for the construction of a $4.5 million black box theater on a triangular patch of ground adjacent to its school of music.

The complex -- which will include a rehearsal hall classroom, shop and support spaces, and administrative offices -- technically will be an expansion of the music school. The addition, mainly brick with an all-glass lobby, will seat 130 to 140 people.

While the 12,170-square-foot theater will be used primarily by Duquesne students, commission member John Valentine urged university officials to explore possible tie-ins with the Uptown neighborhood. "I think this is great for Duquesne, great for Uptown," he said.

Duquesne hopes to get started on the project in April, with completion in August 2015. The university now uses old lecture space in Rockwell Hall as a theater but is looking to improve upon that.

Not that a new building in and of itself makes theater. "The magic happens inside," architect Martin Powell said.

Also Tuesday, the commission unanimously approved plans to use the former St. Stephen's Roman Catholic Church in Hazelwood for a K-6 charter school operated by Propel Schools.

The school is expected to open to students in August. City Councilman Corey O'Connor and a number of Hazelwood residents turned out to support the school, saying it could be a big help in revitalizing the neighborhood. "We think this is a transformative project," said James Richter, executive director of the Hazelwood Initiative.

Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.


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