Pittsburgh commission seeks to expand Downtown historic districts

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A new historic district and expansions of four existing ones, all Downtown, have been proposed to the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

The commission will consider the nominations and relay its decision to the National Parks Service of the Department of the Interior. The final decision can be expected by autumn, said Louise Sturgess, executive director of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.

"The idea is to expand as appropriate and add Gateway Center," said Arthur Ziegler, president of the landmarks foundation. "We will be adding about 100 buildings. Our Downtown architecture is of national significance, and this would make these buildings eligible for historic tax credits."

A new Renaissance district would encompass the area from Stanwix Street to the Point. Its period of significance ranges from 1927 to 1974.

The Firstside historic district's boundaries would be increased substantially from Fort Pitt Boulevard and First Street to include areas bounded by the Boulevard of the Allies, Grant Street and Stanwix. The district was first listed in 1988 and included a line of buildings facing the Monongahela River that were part of Pittsburgh's early commercial waterfront.

Its period of significance now stretches from 1845 to 1938.

The Central Downtown district became significant in 1850 and now, with the proposed expansion, would gather up buildings and a site that have reached the golden age of 50 -- including the original Alcoa Building and Mellon Park -- which is a criterion for the national register.

The Fourth Avenue district, with a contributing period from 1871 to 1934, includes Smithfield to Third Street to Market Square and Fifth Avenue.

An expansion of the Penn-Liberty historic district is being pursued separately by Urban Design Ventures and Powers & Co. and is in the public review stage. It goes to the state commission's board in February.

The nominations can be reviewed at the city of Pittsburgh's Historic Review Commission website at www.city.pittsburgh.pa.us/cp/html/historic_review_commission.html.

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Diana Nelson Jones: djones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1626. Read her blog City Walkabout at www.post-gazette.com/citywalk.


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