Can the Garden Theater on Pittsburgh’s North Side Be Saved?

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People can point fingers all across the board, they should have done this, and they should have done that. The entire community will lose these buildings.

As a headline, “Dog bites man” is satirical, but it indicates that an event is unfolding about as you would expect.

When Pittsburgh loses a cluster of historic buildings, as we did with the recent demolition of 4, 6, and 8 West North Avenue on the North Side at the beginning of February, that is definitely news. We lose historic buildings all the time. Sadly, it’s not much of a shock.

The so-called Garden Block on the North Side, bounded by West North, Federal, Reddour, and Eloise across from Allegheny Commons, has had its ups and downs of redevelopment in recent years. The centerpiece theater sat unused in the early 2010s, after its last days as a porn theater. Then, a block-wide redevelopment campaign under the ownership of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) saw notable successes. Rebirth of the adjacent Masonic Temple as the City of Asylum headquarters has been a terrific success, and the preservation of the contiguous Mayberry building as a 16-unit apartment building saved a prized work by historic architect Frederick Osterling.

But the Garden Theater itself, though renovated, has languished without a tenant after the departure of its Philadelphia-based developer Wayne Zukin. Press accounts have attributed that vacancy to the precarious nature of the buildings so recently in the adjacent lots at the prominent corner.

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