County officials to seek OK to demolish dilapidated garage

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Allegheny County's 82-year-old Fourth Avenue Garage, so dilapidated that it sparked criticism from controller Chelsa Wagner last year, won't survive much longer.

County officials will go before the city planning commission today seeking approval to demolish the structure, which was closed in February 2012 because of its deteriorated condition.

Steven Smallhoover, an assistant manager in the public works department, said after a recent planning commission briefing that the county intends to start the demolition July 1 and have it completed by the end of December.

The razing is expected to cost the county $2 million, he said.

It will conclude a sorry history with the building for the county, at least in terms of preventive maintenance. Upper floors of the structure were closed to parking in 2011, and the rest were shut down in February.

The garage came under fire from Ms. Wagner in an audit last October. She said it "put the county's own employees and the public in serious danger." At the time, she urged county Executive Rich Fitzgerald to review the condition of all county-owned assets and develop maintenance priorities before buying additional real estate.

Brad Korinski, Ms. Wagner's spokesman, said Monday he was not surprised that the county had decided to knock down the garage. "It has to be demolished because it's been neglected for the last 20 years," he said. "It was as dilapidated of a place as you could hope to see. It was by the grace of God, I think, that it stood up."

Mr. Smallhoover said the demolition work will be done at night because of the proximity of the Port Authority's light rail transit line, which runs about 30 feet behind the building.

Amie Downs, Mr. Fitzgerald's spokeswoman, said the county has developed no plans for the garage site at this point.

Gigi Saladna, spokeswoman for the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority, said there had been discussions between the county and the URA about using the garage site and a parking lot behind the John P. Robin Civic Building on Ross Street for a parking garage but the talks broke off.

The county has owned the garage since 1989. In addressing Ms. Wagner's criticism last year, former public works director Joseph Olczak said the county had sought multiple times to secure funding for garage repairs.

neigh_city - businessnews

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


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