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Consultant recommends $44.4M plan to raze, rehabilitate former state prison site in Pittsburgh

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

A consultant has recommended that Pennsylvania spend $44.4 million to demolish a former state prison in Pittsburgh and rehabilitate the site for industrial reuse and a riverfront park, despite the prison's popularity with television and film producers.

It wasn't clear when or if state officials would act on the recommendation made by Michael Baker International.

The consultant's plan calls for razing all 42 buildings at the former State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh, including the main penitentiary. It also says 5.2 acres (2 hectares) of the property along the Ohio riverfront should be set aside as a public park, part of which would be integrated into the Three Rivers Heritage Trail that runs by the old prison.

If that is done, the site could then be sold to a private buyer or possibly conveyed to the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority.

The consultant acknowledged that tearing down the prison would end thriving filmmaking industry at the site, where six major productions have been done. However, it noted that unless officials can get guaranteed commitments from the film industry to use the site, the buildings offer “very little opportunity for reuse” given their current physical condition.

The report found three viable options for the site, including the demolition plan it recommended. They also considered a less intensive demolition plan — razing 39 structures while retaining the main penitentiary building, its North Wall and guard stations 1 and 2 — and selling the entire property “as-is” to a private buyer. The latter option, though, had little support because it seems unlikely a buyer would be willing to assume the financial and environmental liabilities involved with preparing the site for reuse.

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