City investigating demolitions on Iron City site
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The city Wednesday began investigating two unauthorized demolitions at the former Iron City Brewing Co. in Lawrenceville just as the master-planning process for the site's future development is getting under way.
Lawrenceville stakeholders and representatives of the property owner met in the evening to begin the planning process. The demolitions were to have been the opening topic of discussion.
Earlier in the day John Jennings, acting chief of the Bureau of Building Inspection, said the city would cite the property owner for demolition without a permit and without authorization of the city's Historic Review Commission.
"This has occurred without our approval," he said.
Collier Development, which bought the property in February from the Pittsburgh Brewing Co., had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Lawrenceville Corp. in May not to demolish or significantly alter any building before a plan could be created.
Tim Frew, the project manager for Collier Development, said Wednesday the demolitions of a small brick and concrete building and a corrugated metal building near it were instant decisions made after a roof began to fall as a result of the legal demolition of the original ice house. The two buildings were attached, he said.
Matthew Galluzzo, executive director of the Lawrenceville Corp., said that Collier Development had an understanding with the nonprofit "that explicitly precluded them from doing any demolition or any significant interior alterations of any structure on site." Because they all have historic protection, he said, "no building is more or less important than any other to the integrity of that site."
The Lawrenceville Corp. is facilitating the master-planning process.
Mr. Galluzzo said the actions of the developer "represent an egregious disregard for building code laws, permitting code requirements and the memorandum of understanding we had with them."
On Monday, Carol Peterson of the Lawrenceville Stakeholders Historic Preservation Committee said the committee drafted a letter to the Historic Review Commission with more than 20 signatures from residents and other stakeholders asking for the city to halt the demolitions.
"We are united against the willful destruction of significant architectural and historical buildings," the letter stated.
The Historic Review Commission had given the Pittsburgh Brewing Co. permission to raze the original ice house, later referred to as the pipe shop, after its CEO Tim Hickman pleaded for that right, citing public safety dangers.
Mr. Frew said his crew took out the pipe shop "and during demolition, a structure attached to that started to fail. We secured it, propped the roof up."
Later, he said, the roof caved in with a large hole in it. That building was cement block and brick and about 10-feet tall, he said.
"We've had a lot of problems with vandals trying to secure scrap. We think someone climbed up and fell through." They removed the roof and the walls buckled. Then they demolished the building and the structure next to it after trying to secure it unsuccessfully, he said.
He said a building inspector took a tour of the site with him on Tuesday, "and I explained to him why we did what we did."
Mr. Frew said he understands the importance of the pledge Collier Development made to the Lawrenceville Corp. "but when something like this happens it has to be acted on quickly. Everyone here considers certain buildings really historic."
In 2010, the city conferred historic status on all but one building on the 9-acre site -- a non-descript 1970s add-on -- which is bordered by Liberty and Herron avenues and Sassafras Way. Pittsburgh Brewing Co. ended operations there and moved to Latrobe in 2009.
Early last year, the Bureau of Building Inspection cited the brewing company to abate the dilapidated condition of the original ice house, built in the 1890s, but the Historic Review Commission later allowed for its razing because it had been allowed to fall apart and was deemed unsafe at that point.
The iconic and oldest building -- the headquarters -- was built in 1884 and a second was added in 1896 as the business grew.
First Published August 2, 2012 12:05 am