Point Park University asks to make way for playhouse

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Point Park University is clearing the way -- literally -- for the relocation of the Pittsburgh Playhouse from Oakland to Downtown.

The university has filed an application with the city for permission to demolish three buildings on Forbes Avenue, including the former Honus Wagner sporting good store, to make room for the complex.

"We are taking the first step," said Mariann Geyer, the university's vice president, external affairs.

Ms. Geyer declined to provide further information "out of respect for the process." The university will brief the city planning commission on the project next week and a full presentation will be made then, she said.

The college's application says simply that the intent of the development is "to deconstruct/recycle the three existing buildings to provide space for construction" of the playhouse. It said an application for the construction would be filed separately.

It estimates the cost of the demolition -- 35,000 square feet in all -- at $700,000.

Ms. Geyer said she had no timetable for construction. However, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership said in its "State of Downtown Pittsburgh 2013" report in May that the project could start in 2014 once design work wraps up this year.

Earlier this year, Point Park made the relocation of the playhouse the priority of the next phase of its $244 million academic village initiative Downtown. That decision moved the playhouse relocation and construction ahead of plans for a $32 million student and convocation center featuring a 1,000-seat basketball arena that was to be built on the Boulevard of the Allies next to the former YMCA building.

University president Paul Hennigan said in March that the relocation has the potential to bring another 300 students to Downtown. Point Park also is hoping the project will help to energize a block of Forbes and complement PNC Financial Services Group's new $400 million Tower at PNC Plaza skyscraper under construction across the street.

The Point Park complex would feature three state-of-the-art theaters as well as scene and sound shops. Mr. Hennigan has said it has the potential to be a 24/7 destination, with students working and performing at the site all hours of the day and night.

While the college has refused to set a timetable for the development, The Globe, the university's student newspaper, has said the playhouse could be completed by early 2016.

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


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