Friday, December 7, 2012

Pittsburgh's Iron City Brewery Historic Buildings in Jeopardy

It is clear Mayor Ravenstahl is failing Pittsburgh once again...  

The following is re-posted from Carol Peterson at Pittsburgh House Histories.

Lawrenceville and Polish Hill community groups sent the following letter to the city regarding the Iron City Brewery:

December 5, 2012

Ms. Noor Ismail
Department of City Planning
414 Grant Street
Pittsburgh PA 15219

Dear Director Ismail,

We are writing to formally request a Special Meeting with the Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission, as allowed for in HRCʼs Rules and Procedures, at its earliest convenience so that we may discuss with the Commission our substantial objections to Collier Developmentʼs proposed plans for redevelopment of the historic Iron City Brewery.

We are strongly concerned with Collierʼs stated intent to demolish many of the propertyʼs historic component buildings, and fear that the demolitions will occur in the immediate future. We object to HRCʼs declining to meet with community representatives to discuss our concerns about the brewery, in violation of city law (see below), even as HRC staff has met privately with Collier. We object to HRC and the Bureau of Building Inspectionʼs failure to protect the brewery property from, and hold its owners accountable for, several unlawful alterations that have occurred since the property was nominated for historic protection in 2009. We want to assist the city in protecting the Iron City Brewery before it is too late to save the property, which is highly significant in the history of Lawrenceville and Polish Hill, Pittsburgh, and Western Pennsylvania.

Collierʼs intent to demolish: Collier purchased the former Iron City Brewery in early 2012, aware that the property had been designated a Pittsburgh historic landmark to protect its buildings and structures. Collier quickly applied for exceptions to city law in order to be allowed to demolish three large and significant buildings on the property. Collier withdrew the application, but has since reiterated intent to demolish those and other significant brewery components in “alternatives” derived from what has been billed as a master planning process with community involvement. We must note that the first two public master planning meetings featured strong community support for historic preservation at Iron City, and Collierʼs subsequent claims that community members expressed support for widespread demolition and inappropriate redevelopment are false and astonishing. The representation of the two public meetings as supporting the destruction of this historic landmark indicates that Collierʼs participation in the master planning process has been only a cynical attempt to build a legal case for demolition under City Code §1101.02(g). We are particularly concerned because HRC has declined to discuss the brewery situation with community members when requested.

HRC declined to meet with community: On October 19, 2012, Carol Peterson, co- chair of the Lawrenceville Stakeholders historic preservation committee, emailed HRC staff Sarah Quinn to formally request that the committee be placed on the agenda to discuss Iron City with HRC at HRCʼs November 7 meeting:

"Members of Lawrenceville Stakeholders and others around the community and the city continue to feel deep concern about the stewardship and fate of the historically significant component buildings in the brewery complex. In addition to the recent illegal demolitions of which you and the Commission are aware, the brewery's owners and/or their architects have stated publicly that they do not regard many of the component buildings as worth preserving, have presented plans depicting extensive demolition in all three alternatives developed in the master planning process (master plan originally suggested by HRC), and stated publicly that the Historic Review Commission will give permission for unsympathetic alterations at the property if asked. The owners are overtly hostile to historic preservation, and we fear that this locally and regionally significant historic resource will soon be irreparably damaged."

Ms. Quinn placed Ms. Peterson (not the committee) on the agenda, but on October 24 told Ms. Peterson that the HRC had instructed her to remove her from the agenda because she “wonʼt be commenting on a particular hearing item.” The removal from the agenda violated HRC Rules and Procedures:

"All applicants and those requesting to address the Commission on business other than design review shall have the right to be heard at the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Commission, provided that the application has been filed by the deadline for that meeting."

This followed Ms. Quinnʼs stating on August 3, 2012 that she would not discuss recent illegal demolitions at Iron City with the Stakeholders historic preservation committee “because itʼs in litigation.” The refusal violated §1101.07(b)(9), stating that HRC is to:

"Act as liaison on behalf of the City with preservation organizations, professional societies, community and other groups, private property owners, and interested citizens, concerning conservation of the historic resources of the city."

While refusing community requests to meet, HRC staff has met privately with Collier. At the November 19 Iron City Master Planning Steering Committee meeting, Collier representatives stated that they and their architects had met with Ms. Quinn and another City Planning employee to present one of the demolition-heavy “alternatives” from the master planning meetings as the scheme favored by the community. Such a presentation strongly misrepresented community input. They said Ms. Quinn and the other employee expressed enthusiasm for the redevelopment scheme.

HRC and BBI have failed to protect the brewery: Since its historic nomination in 2009, the Iron City complex has been subjected to incremental unsympathetic alterations that violated city permitting procedures. HRC and BBI have not enforced city laws that are intended to prevent unsympathetic alterations. The most egregious example is Collierʼs removal of the top 20 feet of the iconic brewery smokestack with ornamental diaperwork. At the September 5, 2012 HRC meeting, Collierʼs project manager asked permission to take down 20 feet of the smokestack; HRC granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to repair instead of demolish. On November 14-15, Collier workers took down the top 20 feet of the stack. The city has declined to cite Collier for the demolition, saying Collier will rebuild the stack in kind as required by §1101.02(g), which requires that that work be performed in accordance with Secretary of the Interior Standards for Rehabilitation. But Collier cannot do that because its workers destroyed the specially made (oversized, pie slice-shaped, and tapered) bricks. Collierʼs project manager has said that Collier will rebuild the stack with bricks they have acquired of “similar” color. We note that such work would not adhere to the Secretary of the Interior Standards, and strongly doubt the project managerʼs later claim that Collier had done adequate documentation for reconstruction. Collier knew of the requirement to adhere to those standards when it purchased the property. We ask HRC to revoke the Certificate of Appropriateness for this work, and ask BBI to revoke any building permits issued to allow this work and put a Stop Work order on the property, immediately upon receipt of this letter.

Other examples include:

--BBIʼs March 2012 issuance of a demolition permit for the Pipe Shop on Sassafras Street. HRC had granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to former owner Tim Hickman in February 2011. The COA had expired before the demolition permit was granted, and the granting of the demolition permit was therefore unlawful.

--On July 30, 2012, community members discovered the illegal demolition of two brewery buildings adjoining the former Pipe Shop site. We understand that BBI and HRC staff were already aware of the illegal demolition, but did not cite Collier for it until community outcry following the July 30 discovery.

--More than 200 tons of demolition rubble rests against brewery buildings that Collier wishes to demolish. Community residents have witnessed Collier adding to the pile, and fear that the weight will destabilize the buildings. Why have BBI and HRC allowed this?

--When the Cityʼs protection of the brewery began, a network of elevated steam pipes ran between buildings. Many or all of the steam pipes, which were visible from public rights-of-way and contributed to the breweryʼs historic significance, have been removed. We do not know whether that occurred during Collier ownership or previous ownership, but hope to determine this.

--A one-story brick addition to the Boiler House has been demolished. We do not know whether that occurred during Collier or previous ownership, but hope to determine this.

--In the September 5 HRC meeting, Collier Development acknowledged having performed additional un-permitted work, consisting of having removed sidewalk light fixtures along Liberty Avenue. Collier has not been cited for this illegal alteration.

Summary: The Iron City Brewery is immediately threatened by the plans and actions of its owners, and community residents and city officials and departments must work together immediately to prevent its destruction. The brewery is an enormously significant part of our communitiesʼ, cityʼs, and regionʼs past, and will be just as vital to our future with our proper stewardship.


(1) We respectfully request a Special Meeting with HRC as indicated by HRC Rules and Procedures as soon as possible- no later than December 13- so that we may communicate our concerns about process and plans.

(2) We ask HRC to revoke the Certificate of Appropriateness for work on the smokestack, and ask BBI to revoke any building permits issued to allow this work and put a Stop Work order on the property, immediately upon receipt of this letter.

(3) We would like to be present at all discussions between the City and Collier Development.

(4) All HRC decisions pertaining to Iron City should fully uphold the letter and spirit of the Pittsburgh Historic Preservation Code- including but not limited to ensuring that demolition and other unsympathetic alterations are permitted only when it is certain that no feasible alternative exists.


Keith Cochran, Lawrenceville Stakeholders

Carol Peterson, Lawrenceville Stakeholders
Lauren Byrne, Lawrenceville United
Alexis Miller, Polish Hill Civic Association

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl
City Solicitor Dan Regan
Sen. James Ferlo
Councilman Patrick Dowd
Councilwoman Darlene Harris
Councilman William Peduto
Councilman Corey OʼConnor
Councilman Ricky Burgess
Councilman Daniel Lavelle
Councilman Bruce Kraus
Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak
Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith
City Controller Michael Lamb
John Jennings, Bureau of Building Inspection
Mindy Crawford, Preservation Pennsylvania
Bill Callahan, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
Stephanie Meeks, National Trust for Historic Preservation
Matthew Galluzzo, Lawrenceville Corporation
Arthur Ziegler, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation
Scott Leib, Preservation Pittsburgh
Richard Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Executive
Amanda Green Hawkins, Allegheny County Council
State Rep. Adam Ravenstahl
Steve Glassman, Design Center Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Young Preservationists Association
Robert Rubenstein, Urban Redevelopment Authority


Eyes on Pittsburgh
Formerly the Pittsburgh Art Blog, Eyes on Pittsburgh focuses on cultural aspects of the region, including visual and performing arts, as well as locavore, development and environmental issues through original, analytical writing and interviews. Pittsburgh area galleries and art venues are listed at the sister site The blog and website are volunteer projects from fine art photographer and Pittsburgh artist advocate rick byerly.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Say No To Buncher Company's Plans For Private Drives Along Allegheny River

It's bad enough we've waited this long for the possibility of decent river access in the Strip and Lawrenceville, now we have this...

Check out the Pittsburgh Post Gazette's article on the possibility of restricted river access and private drives via the Buncher Company along the Allegheny River in the Strip District.

And the URA rears it's head...

In a statement, the URA defended the Buncher plan, noting that its Riverfront Landing development would provide far more access to the river than now is available in the Strip District. That's true, but cordoning off any portions of the new neighborhood is unacceptable, especially considering the tax incentives that are being proposed to assist the developers.

Make yourself heard ASAP!

Eyes on Pittsburgh
Formerly the Pittsburgh Art Blog, Eyes on Pittsburgh focuses on cultural aspects of the region, including visual and performing arts, as well as locavore, development and environmental issues through original, analytical writing and interviews. Pittsburgh area galleries and art venues are listed at the sister site The blog and website are volunteer projects from fine art photographer and Pittsburgh artist advocate rick byerly.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Art Hopper: Art and Visual Culture Forum for the Lake Erie, Great Lakes region

Digging Pitt (Ohio as well) has found out about a great new regional site covering arts and visual culture in many Ohio cities, Detroit and Pittsburgh. Head on over there to learn more.

Whether you're an organization, artist or fan this is your chance to submit events and news tips to ArtHopper about what's going on in your town...

This is an amazing new resource! And I don't have to reinvent the wheel now!


The Pittsburgh Art Blog

is on hiatus pending a new direction...

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pittsburgh Galleries Directory Updated

The volunteer run, Pittsburgh Galleries Directory, has been updated. The actual url is

Rick Byerly