The police headquarters responsible for patrolling the South Side and south hilltop neighborhoods will be moving to the former youth hostel building in Allentown. This four-story building has been vacant since the fall of 2003.
The building is being extensively renovated to meet the needs of the police. Additional parcels of land near the former hostel may also be acquired soon in order to provide adequate parking for the Zone 3 staff that works out of this building.
The renovations will include insuring safety of the ground level of the police station which requires the front windows to be bullet proof as well as shields any view of the first floor of the building from the street, which was not the case when it was a hostel and previous to that a banking facility.
With the assistance of the City's Office of Public Art (and the Greater Pittsburgh Art Council) the ground-level safety requirements will be met in an aesthetically pleasing manner.
Four large windows on the ground floor will be replaced with aluminum panels that will have etchings on each of them. A small portion of the $1.8 million budget is being allocated for the metal panels of the police station.
A committee of no more than a dozen or so people, comprised of local artists, designers and/or architects, as well as residents of Allentown and perhaps other Zone 3 neighborhoods, is expected to select an artist from the Pittsburgh Artist Registry by mid- to late-January.
There are more than 580 artists listed on the current registry, according to officials from the Office of Public Art. The chosen artist will be expected to produce a design for fabrication on the metal panels by March. The goal is for the art to be installed by the time the building is re-opened as a police station in April.
Kim Graziani, director of Neighborhood Initiatives, introduced Renee Piechocki, the director of the Office of Public Art and Lea Donatelli, the program manager, to give the presentation about the etched panels. They went over the details about the window renovations.
Ms. Piechocki said she expects the committee to have a "short list" of three or four candidates to choose from with each candidate on the short list expected to be interviewed. Ms. Piechocki said the artist does not have to know how to work with the metal material. This material will not only include an aluminum base, but also a special synthetically-designed bullet-proof coating. The chosen artist's design will be fabricated onto the material which is expected to be a fade-resistant permanent part of the building facade.
"This is more than a mural," Ms. Piechocki. "The art will enhance the appearance of the building for the community."
The committee is looking for a design that will be "welcoming" to the community since the police station will be situated at an intersection that is basically the entrance to the Allentown neighborhood and its business district.
Some people in the audience suggested to the Office of Public Art officials that the business and community leaders of Allentown have the most significant input into the final decision of the public art. They believe the Allentown community should have a bigger say in the decision since they will be exposed to it on a daily basis, unlike other residents of Zone 3 who may only see it occasionally.
Ken Wolfe, president of the Zone 3 Public Safety Citizens Board, said he hopes to have the project manager for the renovation of the Allentown facility at the next monthly meeting, tentatively set for January 21, where a progress report on the art-work process may be given.
Mr. Wolfe also announced that an election of board officers will be held at the January meeting. Nominations are being accepted. Seats are up for election for all four board positions. At this time, the board does not have a vice president, a secretary or treasurer. The only position filled on the board in recent months has been that of the president.