The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh is considering an expansion into part of the former Allegheny branch of the Carnegie Library and is studying the possibility under an agreement with the city.
The study will determine future operations, said Chris Siefert, deputy director of the museum on the North Side, adding that a public feedback process could lead to "some kind of lease agreement."
A public open house at the former library is scheduled Aug. 14 so that staff of the museum and its partners can present their thoughts and hear what neighbors and business stakeholders think. It will be held from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., with guided tours every 15 minutes. Reservations are not required.
The former library, in Allegheny Square on the North Side, is owned by the city and attached to the New Hazlett Theater, where a free event at 7 p.m. will follow the open house -- a Charlie Chaplin film accompanied by pianist Tom Roberts.
A synergy of the current tenants in the museum building and the New Hazlett Theater could emerge in the library's reuse, as could a relationship with the senior center in the basement.
"Maybe the seniors could engage with our youth," Mr. Siefert said. "That would present opportunities for intergenerational learning.
"We have some ideas of what we'd like to do," he said, "but it's a big building and I don't think we have a big enough program to fill it. I think it has multiuse potential, an opportunity for co-mingling. We're talking with a few other community organizations that all have need for more space for offices and programs.
"We're growing our campus and we want to keep the learning and research and entrepreneurial activities of who we are as a core" while building on urban gardening and creative workshop programs.
He said the Children's Museum has long-standing partnerships with the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.
"They're interested in looking at how children learn, so this could be a place of research."
The New Hazlett Theater opened as such in 2005, in part due to fundraising by the Children's Museum, and is a partner in the museum's expansion planning.
"We would hope there may be a smaller performance space we could use [in the former library] for tenants who maybe wouldn't draw an audience of 500 but an audience of 100," said Rene Conrad, executive director of the New Hazlett.
A synergy "would be terrific if the building becomes a community resource, with shared spaces to get more people from the neighborhood involved."
Mr. Siefert said the library's reuse could be a chance for museum staff to impress upon youth the cultural value of historic properties.
Pittsburgh's first Carnegie library, the Allegheny branch, was closed in April 2006 after lightning hit its clock tower and sent granite through the roof. The 45,000-square-foot building is empty except for the Citiparks senior center in the basement. A new library branch opened on Federal Street in 2009.
The building is three stories, with mezzanines and maze-like connections. The Carnegie Library system had been considering a move even before the damaging storm because the historic structure was too big, not accessible enough and not energy efficient, library spokesmen said at the time.
Construction of Andrew Carnegie's first library, in Braddock, was still in process when the second one, in what was then the city of Allegheny, was completed and opened in 1890. President Benjamin Harrison dedicated it.
The tenants in the Children's Museum building -- Reading Is Fundamental and "The Saturday Light Brigade" radio program -- also are involved in the expansion planning.
"We work with a lot of teens now," said Larry Berger, executive director of SLB Radio. "Either because of the size of the group or because teenagers need more time to spread out, we thought it would be nice to have a larger facility for them, one that made more sense to have open at different hours, say from 3 to 9 during the school year. We could be open as a way of life, have a clubhouse atmosphere and give them more of a home."
The radio show had already been growing significantly when the museum began discussing expansion, he said.
Mr. Siefert said the Children's Museum would approach any use it makes of the old library as community driven "so that the community can go in and out without having to buy a ticket. There might be some ticketed space, but it is a city building and we recognize that.
"But I want to have my expectations in check" until the public discourse and the study concludes, he said.