Milton Jones has watched the South Side Market House change from a food market to a recreation hall to a senior citizen center.
The historic building was closed for more than a year as the city fixed structural problems and made renovations, and on Monday, Mr. Jones, 79, of the South Side was on hand to view the improvements.
"It's nice to be back here," he said.
South Side Market House, located at 12th and East Carson streets, was built in 1893 and rebuilt in 1915 after a fire, according to the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.
The city public works department closed the building in March 2011 to repair structural problems with the vestibule floor. Repair bids for the Market House work came in $500,000 above estimates, so public works employees did the work in-house for about $230,000.
Senior programs were moved to the Brashear Association, also on the South Side, during the renovations. On Monday, city officials cut a ceremonial yellow ribbon and welcomed people back to Market House.
"It's important for us to continue to invest in our seniors, and we have done that here today," said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
Dozens of older adults attended the ceremony, and once the doors opened and the coffee and pastries were served, there was barely an empty seat to be found in the large hall.
The building's closure was challenging for residents who use the center, said city Councilman Bruce Kraus.
"It's very important to have your day structured, to have a place to go, activities to do," he said. "It goes beyond just a meeting place. It's a place to socialize, see your friends, stay connected, have a reason in your day."
That place is back, and after the ceremony Pat Matthews, president of the South Side senior council, walked into an improved South Side Market House.
"I feel that I was on vacation for 15 months, and I'm finally coming home, and it just feels so good," she said.
She walked into a building with a repaired floor, brighter lighting, newly painted walls, new window treatments and a Wii game monitor.
"It's a night-and-day difference from what it was previously," said Justin Abbott, the new director of the center.
The second phase of the Market House renovation, which includes updating an art room and exercise facility, is under way and should be completed by the fall, he said.
South Side Market House is where Mr. Jones' family shopped, where he taught line dancing to community college students and where he led bingo games for fellow seniors.
On Monday, he was just sitting at a table, taking in the building's new look.
"It's beautiful," he said. "They did a great job."
Kaitlynn Riely: email@example.com or 412-263-1707. First Published June 26, 2012 4:15 AM