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Design students imagine new life for Hill District's historic New Granada Theater

Students at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh brought attention last week to the New Granada Theater, a cultural touchstone for the Hill District and city that has been vacant for some four decades.

In its heyday, the New Granada hosted icons such as Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald.

Under the guidance of faculty member Lisa Whitney, a group of 13 interior design students conceptualized renovation possibilities for the circa-1927 building, which was has been named one of the city's top 10 preservation opportunities by the Young Preservationists' Association (YPA).

The students' concepts--which were presented on Friday night at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Wylie Avenue--included a museum, theater, ballroom, glass observation deck, gym, teaching studios, dining facility and coffee shop. The community program could not be held at the New Granada due to safety concerns, as the New Granada's floor is currently not fully intact.

The 35,000-square-foot building, which is owned by the Hill District Community Development Corporation, has been the site of recent preservation efforts totaling close to $1 million. Within the last 18 months, the interiors were gutted, the exteriors was stabilized and a new roof was installed. A full renovation and build-out would cost between $9 and $11 million, says Dan Holland with YPA.

The students are part of the Art Institute's "Urban Studio" course, which, in previous semesters, has worked with the Historical Society of Carnegie, UnSmoke Artspace in Braddock, and the Tin Front Cafe in Homestead.

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Writer: Caralyn Green
Sources: Lisa Whitney, Art Institute of Pittsburgh; Dan Holland, Young Preservationists' Association

Image courtesy of Art Institute of Pittsburgh
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