Authority acquires last parcel needed for new arena

Pays $5.5 million for synagogue site

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The final property needed for the new arena to be built Uptown has been bought by the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority.

At their weekly meeting yesterday, authority board members voted unanimously to pay $5.5 million for a small synagogue that sits in the way of the project.

The property at 1230 Colwell St. is owned by the Beth Hamedrash Hagodol-Beth Jacob Congregation. It is assessed at $949,240, according to the county's property assessment Web site. That includes $477,430 in land value and $471,810 for the relatively small building.

Mary Conturo, executive director of the authority, said the board decided to honor an agreement the congregation had previously made with Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. when that company was bidding on the lone license to open a slot machine parlor in Pittsburgh.

The purchase price includes $2.8 million for the building and property, and $2.7 million to move the congregation. It hopes to move to the former site of the Central Blood Bank on Fifth Avenue.

The deal calls for the property to be vacated by May 8.

With that deal in hand, the authority board also approved paying $22,000 to Applied Science International of Raleigh, N.C., for a virtual simulation in advance of the planned implosion Saturday morning of the former St. Francis Central Hospital.

The computerized simulation will show the demolition from 360 degrees, without the noise and dust, a company spokesman said.

The authority paid $8.5 million for the hospital, the largest single expenditure for property for the new arena.

The synagogue is the second most expensive purchase.

The $290 million arena is to be built primarily on the hospital site, between Centre and Fifth avenues. The synagogue is situated in the shadow of the hospital, toward Fifth Avenue.

Ira Frank, president of the congregation and owner of the National Fabric Co. on Fifth, said the congregation dates to the 1860s. It moved into the Uptown location in the 1960s, and has served a transient population in the low hundreds, Mr. Frank said.

Demolition crews failed last month to take down the 10-story, 350,000-square-foot hospital building using a technique called "controlled collapse." The demolition contractor, Homrich Inc., will employ explosives this time to collapse the structure inwardly.

The implosion is scheduled between 7 and 7:30 a.m. Saturday.

The simulation will be presented to the authority board of directors to help determine the effects of the explosive demolition on nearby buildings.

Jim McKinnon can be reached at or 412-263-1939.


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