State grant secured for new Pittsburgh Playhouse in Downtown
September 27, 2014 12:00 AM
Gov. Tom Corbett announces the award of a $5 million Economic Growth Initiative grant to continue the revitalization and renewal of Downtown Pittsburgh at the site of the new Pittsburgh Playhouse at Point Park University on Forbes Avenue on Friday.
By Mark Belko / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The curtain is about to rise on the construction of the new Pittsburgh Playhouse, Downtown.
Point Park University hopes to start work on the $75 million complex, to be built on Forbes Avenue between Smithfield and Wood streets, before the end of the year, president Paul Hennigan said Friday.
“We’re ready to go,” he said.
The project got a key boost Friday when Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican running for re-election, announced the award of a $5 million state redevelopment assistance capital grant to help pay for the work.
Mr. Hennigan said the grant “pushes us to the point where we’re ready to start the project. It’s huge.” Private fundraising for the playhouse has been “very good,” although Mr. Hennigan declined to provide details, saying that information would be released next month.
Point Park has made the relocation of the playhouse from Oakland to Downtown one of the top priorities in its $244 million Academic Village initiative, which not only has upgraded the university’s urban campus but has helped to transform the city’s center, particularly along the Boulevard of the Allies and Wood.
The playhouse will be built on a 1.5-acre tract. The state-of-the-art complex will feature a new five-story, 92,000-square-foot addition and incorporate the existing University Center and the Stock Exchange Building on Fourth Avenue.
Amenities will include two black box theaters with flexible seating arrangements; a 560-seat proscenium/thrust theater; a 10,000-square-foot production area; 11,147 square feet of tech space for technical theater and cinema arts programs; rehearsal studios; a sound stage; scene, paint and prop shops; performance classrooms; and a two-story outdoor plaza and colonnade.
“It will become the heartbeat of Downtown Pittsburgh,” Mr. Hennigan said.
To make room for the playhouse, Point Park plans to dismantle three century-old buildings, including the former Honus Wagner sporting goods store, on Forbes.
While the university has said it would do everything it can to preserve the terra-cotta facades, Preservation Pittsburgh, an advocacy group, has raised concerns about the plan and said that it may seek a city historic designation to protect them.
The two sides have been in discussions for months without any apparent resolution. Mr. Hennigan said the university has had “very good conversations” with Preservation Pittsburgh but referred questions to the group, whose president, Peter Margittai, could not be reached.
Formed in the 1930s, the playhouse got its start as a community theater organization that served as a mainstream alternative to vaudeville and burlesque venues. It was acquired by Point Park in 1968.
Mr. Hennigan said the relocation will bring hundreds of students from Oakland to Downtown and help with the ongoing revitalization of the Golden Triangle, which includes the construction of the $400 million PNC Bank headquarters across the street and the Gardens at Market Square hotel, office and retail complex a block away on Forbes.
The playhouse “will be a powerful engine for economic development” in Downtown, as more than a thousand students will study there each year and families from all over the world will visit to watch them perform, added Anne Lewis, Point Park board chairwoman.
Mark Belko: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1262.
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