Pittsburgh City Council voted 8-1 today to designate the Paramount Pictures Film Exchange as a city historic landmark.
The building, built in 1926 at what is now 1727 Blvd. of the Allies, Uptown, was the Paramount Studio's local connection to theater owners. It screened movies for them there and kept a library and archives. It was one in a row of film exchanges that all the studios owned in most major cities.
Councilman Ricky Burgess was the lone vote against the designation. He could not be reached for comment.
Until last week the building was in the portfolio of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Its attorneys argued against historic status, saying it would inhibit a buyer, but UPMC sold the property to Rick Schweikert, who has plans to restore and turn it into a cultural destination. He said one attraction he wants to establish is a "Buckelodeon," showing films for a dollar.
The city "is not doing me any favors" by its vote, he said. Historic status usually adds cost to renovations and is more cumbersome because of the approvals needed for all changes.
"But I understand the community wants to be sure that whatever happens down the line it is not turned into a parking lot," he said.
He declined to discuss the purchase price.
The building was last used by the county as a warehouse for rodent-control supplies.
"Years ago, long before I began investigating the history of this building, I never would have imagined that I would take part in saving it," said Drew Levinson, whose video about the building alerted the Young Preservationists Society to its history. "I'm incredibly proud of the city for recognizing the value of preserving such an important landmark."
Diana Nelson Jones: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1626. Read her City Walkabout blog at post-gazette.com/localnews.