Pittsburgh City Council has once again postponed a vote on whether to confer a historic designation on the produce terminal in the Strip District. Although council’s action Monday may be a source of frustration to both preservationists and a private developer, its caution is welcome on such a pivotal building in such a key location.
The Pennsylvania Fruit Auction and Sales Building, which opened on Smallman Street in 1929, would be part of a $450 million project by the Buncher Co. to build residential units between the Allegheny River and the old terminal. Buncher would demolish a third of the building and redevelop the rest as office and retail space.
Preservationists want the building kept whole, even though not much of its space is used anymore as a produce terminal. The developer argues that a historic designation, as recommended by the Historic Review Commission and city planning commission, could interfere with its overall plan to build a riverfront community.
Mayor-elect Bill Peduto and some new council members want more time, however, to work with Buncher and preservationists on a compromise and perhaps with other developers on different ideas for the building. That would be time well spent, and council was right to put off a vote in favor of a better outcome.