Clark Building's luxury suites still restricted to renters

Upper floors miss safety standards

The first residents were supposed to move into new luxury apartments on the upper floors of the Clark Building, Downtown, this month. But right now, they still can’t call the building home.

The city’s Bureau of Building Inspection has denied the temporary permit needed to occupy the first apartments in the 23-story Liberty Avenue building.

Maura Kennedy, the bureau’s chief, said the request for the temporary occupancy permit was rejected because the building — specifically the upper floors where the first apartments have been completed — didn’t meet international building code safety requirements.

Under the code, the building must have two means of emergency exit. But the city found that only one of two stair towers went the entire way to the 23rd floor. The other one ended at the ninth floor.

The developer, PMC Property Group of Philadelphia, is in the process of extending the second stairway to the top floor. But until that is completed or another means of exit is provided, the apartments cannot be occupied, Ms. Kennedy said.

“If the [full] stair tower is compromised in some way, we had concerns about how people living on those floors would be able to evacuate the building,” she said.

PMC has appealed the denial to the city’s Board of Appeals, which is scheduled to hear the matter at its meeting next week. Louise Giordano, PMC’s senior vice president of operations, had little to say about the issue Tuesday.

“We’re not interested in discussing it,” she said. “We don’t know where things stand right now.”

PMC had hoped to begin moving residents into the building May 1. It is unclear how many tenants have been denied access to their apartments and whether alternative arrangements were made for them. Ms. Kennedy said tenants are allowed to move their belongings into apartments but cannot stay there.

One reason the city requires two means of emergency exit from buildings with more than six floors is that the ladders on its fire trucks extend a maximum of 75 feet, or about six stories.

“There needs to be multiple ways to get out of a building if one means of egress is compromised,” Ms. Kennedy said. The developer, she added, has secured all of the other necessary building permits and approvals.

“There are no violations on the job. This is not a judgment on the quality of the work. We’re just saying it’s not ready yet to be occupied,” she said.

PMC is converting floors five to 23 in the building, which has been known for decades for the jewelry businesses concentrated there, into one- and two-bedroom apartments. Rents run anywhere from $1,350 a month to $2,400 a month, plus water and electric. As of April 1, about 60 percent of the units had been completed.

Jewelry merchants and other retailers occupy the first several floors of the building.

MORE on Pittsburgh’s real estate: Low vacancy Downtown Pittsburgh

Mark Belko: or 412-263-1262.

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