Pittsburgh City Council again delays vote on historic designation for produce terminal

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Pittsburgh City Council today held off voting, again, on the proposed historic designation of the Smallman Street produce terminal in the Strip District.

District 8 councilwoman Deborah Gross, a preservation supporter who represents the Strip, asked for the delay in deeming the Pennsylvania Fruit Auction and Sales Building historic to allow incoming Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration to work further with developers at the Buncher Co.

The developers oppose designation, saying it would hamper its efforts to demolish a third of the facility, rehabilitate the rest, and make way for a $450 million redevelopment of riverfront land behind the terminal.

Mr. Peduto and his incoming chief-of-staff, Kevin Acklin, also urged council to delay the vote, saying they needed a few more weeks to work with Buncher, preservationists and the community to reach compromise on the building. Mr. Peduto’s team is talking with outside developers who may have other plans for re-use of the terminal.

A delay in the vote “would allow things to happen while at the same time be respectful of the process,” Mr. Peduto said.

Others – including councilmen Daniel Lavelle and Corey O’Connor – urged the body to move forward with a vote opposing the historic tag, saying the final sale of the terminal to Buncher would have to come back to council for a later vote anyway.

Council had already delayed voting on the historic tag twice before, and Ms. Gross said under law the body had until Feb. 14 to make a decision.

Buncher CEO Tom Balestrieri urged council to vote down the designation. He said delaying the decision again would allow council to keep “keep kicking that can down the road” and indefinitely hold up the site’s redevelopment. He said his company would have to meet with the Peduto administration next year whether the building was deemed historic or not.

Mr. Balestrieri repeated that making the building historic would make the overall site hard to complete. “We’ll try it. But we have no expectation we’re going to make it work,” he said.

After more than an hour of sometimes bitter debate council approved the delay with affirmative votes from Ms. Gross, Mr. Peduto, Darlene Harris, Bruce Kraus and Natalia Rudiak.


Timothy McNulty: tmcnulty@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581.

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