Downtown Pittsburgh's Skinny Building to be restored to its original state

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA), 2014-05-22

May 22 --It's considered by some to be one of the world's skinniest buildings and it's about to get a makeover.

Downtown's " Skinny Building " at the corner of Wood Street and Forbes Avenue and its next door neighbor, the John M. Roberts & Son building, will be restored to their original luster as part of a Downtown preservation project funded by a $4 million state capital grant.

Mayor Bill Peduto and Arthur Ziegler , president of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation , which is overseeing the initiatives, announced the plans to restore the exteriors of the two buildings at a press conference this morning.

They will join the Italian Sons and Daughters Building at Forbes and Wood, three cast iron buildings at 418 to 422 Wood St. , several buildings at Wood and Fifth Avenue anchored by Kashi Jewelers , and the Thompson Building in Market Square that have been restored so far using the money.

With the construction of the new PNC office high rise and the Gardens at Market Square office and hotel development nearby, the rehabbed buildings will have a chance to become "special places" in Downtown's revitalization, the mayor said.

As part of the work, PHLF plans to bring back the original marquee to the Roberts Building , which now houses a 7 Eleven convenience store. The large 7 Eleven signage on the marquee will be removed and replaced with much smaller identification markers.

The Skinny Building will be repainted and architectural details will be restored. The building, 5 feet 2 inches wide and 80 feet long, is considered by some enthusiasts to be the world's thinnest building.

It dates back to the early 1900s and has been used over the years as a lunch counter, a produce stand, a cookie shop, a jewelry store, and a hair salon. The street-level open-air retail space currently is used by a vendor that sells T-shirts, hats and other items.

Mr. Ziegler said the open-air part of the building will remain with the restoration.

"We want to have this open-air Manhattan-style market stay," he said.

Mr. Peduto sees the restorations as part of his larger strategy citywide to emphasize historic preservation as a "critical tool" in economic development.

"Where we're using government funds, where we're expending taxpayer dollars, we're expecting developers not to put into the trash heap the city of Pittsburgh but polish it up and save it in creating a uniqueness about Pittsburgh where people can feel pride," he said.

Mr. Peduto also is calling for a new retail strategy Downtown that emphasizes regional retailers and restaurateurs and makes the Golden Triangle " Western Pennsylvania's living room." He sees great potential for both on Wood and Smithfield streets. He made it clear that he prefers such an approach over national chains.

"That would be a loss for this city and this region that we weren't showcasing what we already have here but instead just becoming anywhere USA ," he said.

Richard Beynon , president of the Beynon & Co. real estate firm, said that the restorations, along with the PNC and Gardens construction and refurbished Market Square , are creating great demand for space in the Wood Street corridor.

Read about Pittsburgh's skinniest building in "The Digs"

Mark Belko : or 412-263-1262.


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