The Downtown Preservation Project has officially begun, with $4 million in restoration work underway on seven historic structures in the Wood and Market Street corridors. Arthur Ziegler, President of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF), says this partnership between the mayor's office and a preservation organization is unlike any other in the country.
"I think it's unique in the United States where a mayor sees historic preservation as a primary instrument for economic revitalization and to attract downtown living," he says.
According to Ziegler the impact of historic preservation in downtown is already evident, and he cites the revival of Market Square and Fifth Avenue. The square and its environs were severely dilapidated when PHLF undertook to restore that area, much like the seven structures currently under renovation are in great need of exterior work.
Ziegler says once the initial investment was made in the square, other investments followed their lead.
"We think that if we can improve these facades and graphics, we will find the same kind of upgrade occurring through the private market," Ziegler says. "The mayor believes in that, and we have proven that it can work, and we think it'll work again."
PHLF is being employed by the City to hire architects, oversee bidding and design, and construction supervision. Funding for the project comes from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.
The project is emphasizing the Wood Street corridor as a women's retailing district, as they had emphasized Market and Fifth for men’s retailing. Ziegler says that more than 40 businesses have expressed interest in the storefronts, and seven have said they would be ready to move in today if space and deals were available.
Of the three cast iron facades to be restored, three are now owned by PHLF. The foundation is working with Point Park University to bring student housing to the structures’ upper floors.
Ziegler says the cast iron facades, once produced in foundries throughout the region, create remarkable buildings. And while its unknown if these particular pieces were produced locally, Ziegler recognizes the material’s resonance in Pittsburgh.
“We’re the city of iron and steel,” he says. “We have three of these in a row on Wood Street, they are all in very bad shape, and we will take them back to what they looked like originally.”
Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Arthur Ziegler