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Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

Urban Redevelopment Authority To Vote On Hunt Armory Fate

The Alfred E. Hunt Armory takes up an entire city block of Shadyside. Its original purpose was to house military weapons. It was later a training facility and a community center. It was the venue for Led Zeppelin’s first Pittsburgh show and touted presidential candidates and evangelist Billy Graham.

The more than a century old historic landmark was last used by the 28th infantry of the National Guard until 2013.  

The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh purchased the building from the state last year with hopes of attracting a developer. The URA is expected to vote Dec. 10 on the space’s future.

The three options are: 106 apartments, mostly one-bedroom from Walnut Capital; an incubator with office space and a climbing wall from a partnership between McKnight Realty Partners and The Mosites Company; and an indoor ice rink from Kratsa Properties.

According to the city website, the URA will evaluate each proposal, “based on its use of the site space, how well the proposal meets the project requirements and objectives, the project’s economic feasibility and the developer’s commitment to sustainable design and maximizing Minority/Women Owned Business Enterprise participation.”

Many residents, including Rev. Jonathon Jensen, rector of Calvary Episcopal Church just a few hundred yards from the Armory, favor the ice rink.

“It’s been a community center for a long, long time and this would continue that historic use of it,” Jensen said.

The church hosted three community meetings where Jensen said residents were concerned about traffic and parking. The Armory on Emerson Street is between busy Walnut Street and Shady Avenue, and across the street from Sacred Heart Elementary School.  

“Everybody knows the Hunt Armory will not be a quiet neighbor, as Councilman Gilman put it, as it has been for the last 50 years,” he said. “Whatever it is will be a change from the way the Armory has been a neighbor. There will be more people, more cars, more parking, more traffic. Everyone understands that.”

But he thinks the ice rink will have the least impact of the three options on parking and traffic. All three proposals include interior parking.

Virginia Flaherty of Shadyside spent the last election day collecting signatures from fellow residents supporting the ice rink development.

“We want to see something given back to the community, for not only the East End, but for the whole city,” she said during the comments portion of the Nov. 24 City Council meeting.

Flaherty noted there is not an indoor ice rink within city limits, making hockey players and parents drive to the suburbs for an indoor rink.

The URA will meet at 2 p.m. Dec. 10 in the Wherrett Room at 200 Ross Street for its regular meeting.