Grants help with WQED building upgrades
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About six years ago, when a chunk of concrete fell from the WQED building in Oakland and crashed through the back window of a car, managers knew it was time to address a long list of deferred maintenance.
"The building was not worthy of the organization that was within it. It was looking shabby," said Deborah Acklin, president and chief executive officer of WQED Multimedia.
For decades, wind and weather wore away the four-story building's west side, exposing rebar and causing deep cracks in the concrete. Completed in 1969, the station's home is an example of an architectural style called New Brutalism.
The architect, Paul Schweikher, came to Pittsburgh in 1956 to lead the architecture school at Carnegie Mellon University. Located at 4802 Fifth Ave., WQED has studios and conference rooms on the building's eastern side. Offices are on the western side.
None of the money donated by station members was used to pay for the renovation, Ms. Acklin said. Paul Byers, WQED's executive director of engineering, said improvements began with a $2 million state grant in 2001. Back then, bathrooms became handicap-accessible, new carpeting was installed and new lighting was added to corridors in the building, which has 78,815 square feet of space.
Also around the start of the past decade, the building's original grand staircase, anchored at the center of the structure's exterior, was removed so WQED would be accessible to people with disabilities. The grand staircase, Ms. Acklin said, "started on the street level and went up to the second floor. It was confusing for a lot of people."
In 2005, a $1 million state grant paid for equipment upgrades, and in 2010, another $1 million grant from the state helped cover the expense of sealing and painting the building's exterior, a large job completed over the past summer. Mariani and Richards sealed the poured concrete and coated it with a new shade of sandy tan. Two areas of the building's roof were replaced, surface parking lots were repaved and a new security system was installed.
David K. Roger, president of the Hillman Family Foundations, said the Hillman Foundation awarded a $300,000 grant to WQED in October 2010 to help pay for the cost of improving the station's building and equipment. Also in 2010, Eden Hall Foundation awarded a $200,000 grant so WQED could replace its leaking roof, repair exterior concrete, resurface parking lots and upgrade its security system.
This fall, large signs that announce the PBS member station's call letters were installed at the top of the building in two places. Two blue Q logos were installed in front of the building and on top of it. Shamrock Signs in Bridgeville fabricated the signs.
"The building has never had any really visible signage that identified it as WQED," Mr. Byers said, except for a historic plaque that marks it as the nation's first publicly owned educational television station. In 1955, WQED was the first to televise classes to elementary schools that could receive the station's broadcast signal.
The station removed a WQED sign that stood on the front lawn, next to a dinosaur, "Fredosaurus Rex Friday XIII," artist Karen Howell's tribute to the late Fred Rogers. The sign was removed when the station changed its logo design in 2007, Mr. Byers said. Also this fall, new lighting was installed in front of the building.
"The main thing we are focusing on is safety. We have employees who work well into the night," Ms. Acklin said.
Renovations will continue during 2013. A dozen new windows will be installed; the remaining windows will be reglazed. Some of the windows on the building's west side are 5 feet tall and 10 feet wide. The building's interior will be freshly painted. New carpeting and doors will be installed, too.
In the fall of this year, WQED Multimedia began renting space to Carnegie Mellon University. Teresa Thomas, a CMU spokeswoman, said the Office of Research Integrity and Compliance moved to the first floor of WQED in October. CMU's Office of Sponsored Programs moved to WQED's second floor in November. Both departments had been located in CMU's Warner Hall in Oakland.
First Published December 29, 2012 12:00 am