Pittsburgh's historic Market House, once a center of trade and now a gathering place for senior citizens, reopens today after more than a year of renovations.
The city public works department closed the South Side building in March 2011 because of structural problems with the vestibule floor. Recreation programs were moved to the Brashear Association on Sarah Street.
City public works director Rob Kaczorowski said he initially believed repairs would cost about $200,000 and scraped together that amount from public works, Citiparks and other departments. However, the low bid to do the work came in at $726,000, which required a change of plans.
When Mr. Kaczorowski's construction crew and other workers expressed interest in the job, he agreed. In the end, public works employees repaired the vestibule floor, put down a new floor on the rest of the first level, refurbished the gym floor, repaired window sills, painted and put up new signs. A contractor was brought in to remove asbestos.
"We did all that for $230,000," Mr. Kaczorowski said.
While an exercise room, art room and some finishing touches remain undone, officials are ready to welcome back the seniors. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is scheduled to attend the Market House's reopening at 10 a.m. today.
The Market House, built in the 1890s and rebuilt in 1915 after a fire, is one of the South Side's most notable structures and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The likeness of a bull's head hanging above the front door is a reminder of the building's initial purpose.
In the basement, off limits to the public, are stalls that once held livestock waiting for auction. The building also served as a fresh food market for the city's various ethnic groups and, at various times, was used for roller skating, dances and basketball tournaments, according to the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. Its use for recreation dates to the 1930s, and it had been one of the city's busiest senior centers.
Much of the recent repair work was done by a 13-member construction crew, which had to work on other city projects at the same time.
"It was a small crew. It took a lot of time, but we saved an enormous amount of money," said Councilman Bruce Kraus, who represents the South Side.
Mr. Kraus said public works should consider hiring more construction workers and doing more work in-house. Mr. Kaczorowski said he's already decided to forego a contractor and put the crew to work repairing a retaining wall on Wyoming Street on Mount Washington.
Joe Smydo: email@example.com or 412-263-1548.