The Corbett administration recently released $4 million in Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program (RCAP) grant money that will be targeted to help cover the cost of safety improvements in historic buildings downtown.
"What we are doing with the RCAP is subsidizing façade, roof, fire stairs, elevator… The owner has to take it from there," said Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation President Arthur Zeigler.
The funds were first designated for the city by the Rendell administration, but were stalled by a review process launched by the new governor. Some of the funds are already earmarked for renovation work on three buildings between Fourth Avenue and Forbes Avenue on Smithfield. Ziegler said the buildings hold the last three cast iron facades in Downtown that have not been restored.
The RCAP money is funneled through the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. "Preservation Projects tend to employ more local labor and use local materials as compared to new construction projects," said Commission Western Pennsylvania Representative Bill Callahan.
At the same time the Landmarks Foundation announced that trustee Dr. George White and his wife Kathy have donated $700,000 to purchase the Weldin's Stationary building and the adjoining building at 417 Wood St. "We are going to retain the two tenants, … we are going to restore the exteriors as soon as we can and then we'll look at how to reuse the upper floors, maybe with Point Park University," said Ziegler, who admits there is no deal in place for the University to lease the upper floors. He said, however, there is an "understanding and we are meeting regularly."
The Landmarks Foundation also announced that the Allegheny Foundation has given $1 million to help finish the "Market at Fifth" project, which includes several buildings at the corner of Market and Fifth. The money will be used to renovate the Thompson building just off Market Square. The Thompson building is currently vacant, but according to Ziegler it is in good shape structurally. It most recently housed a restaurant. The Foundation plans to use all of the floors for dining and meeting space.