South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

South Side library to undergo extensive renovations to building


November 16, 2010

A presentation on the planned renovation of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh South Side was the sole presentation at the 35-minute meeting of the South Side Planning Forum on Nov. 9.

The guest library representatives were Mary Monaghan, assistant director; Maggie McFalls, community engagement coordinator; Lydia Scott, South Side library head; and Sallyann Kluz, an associate with Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects, the architects for the renovation.

The first neighborhood renovation planning meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Nov. 17 at the South Side library. The aim of the community meeting is to listen to the public's likes/dislikes about the current structure, and how they wants to use the new library.

Ms. Kluz said the renovation will be the firm's fourth project for Carnegie Library, having worked on the Brookline, Woods Run, and Allegheny branches.

Each finished work is of a different style reflective of its neighborhood in terms of what the community asked for, the buildings surrounding it and the character of the original structure.

The South Side branch is in an historic district. There has been barely any change to it since it was built in 1909, said Ms. Kluz, noting it has the original woodwork.

The restoration/renovation will be on the interior and exterior.

On the outside, windows will be restored and the roof replaced. Brick and stonework damage, due to the building's age, will be repaired. The front entrance stairs and ramp will be replaced and made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act.

The interior will also be made ADA-compliant, such as creating accessible, new bathrooms. Air-conditioning will be added to the building. An expansion will occur in under-utilized space, like the basement and second floor.

Ms. Kluz said she would like to integrate computer classes and other technology that was unheard of a century ago into the historic building.

The architectural process begins with gathering information on the current building; deciding what needs to be done; and drawing rough plans.

Over the next few months designs will be submitted for community input, and then re-submitted to reflect the input.

As "we are very much under the gun" regarding spending $2.5 million by a certain date, said Ms. Monaghan, the library is looking to start the renovations next summer. The library will be closed during the year in which the renovations take place.

But for now, said Ms. Kluz, "we want community input about what the public likes and does not like so we can start to formulate ideas on how space is underutilized and could be used better, and what features could be added while maintaining the existing character."

Next, Susie Puskar delivered the exploratory committee report.

Ms. Puskar represents the planning forum on an exploratory committee to determine the feasibility of the South Side as a "Neighborhood Improvement District," or NID, or some other strategy. The second committee meeting this month will be held on Nov. 23.

At its Oct. 16 meeting, the committee discussed the level of services provided by the Oakland improvement district and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

Both provide street sweeping and power washing of the sidewalks. Both focus on marketing and promotion in order to bring more business into the communities.

The exploratory committee of residents and business owners discussed governance structures of the two organizations, and how property owners in the districts have their voices represented and how the improvement districts are accountable to the property owners.

There is a $750 median cost for commercial property owners in a proposed improvement district in East Liberty.

Each property owners within the proposed improvement district boundries gets to vote on whether they want the district to proceed. If yes, city council also has to approve the district.

If the property owners approve, and city council approves — this is following public meetings and other processes — then all property owners within the boundaries are included in the district. The cost is decided upon by the property owners.

The exploratory committee, said Ms. Puskar, is deciding if this is a good fit for South Side.

She said the goal of the exploratory committee is to report back to the forum in January with recommendations, which will be taken to the forum organizations to determine if there is a consensus.

If there is a consensus, the next step would be the formation of a steering committee to decide boundaries, services, and more. Public meetings to solicit input would follow.

City council would have to approve the improvement district if the neighborhood gives its go-ahead. Every property owner within the proposed district would have a vote.

Ms. Puskar said she would make a presentation before any forum organization, now or after recommendations are made.

The meeting concluded with news of upcoming festive events.

On Nov. 16 at 6 p.m., Duquesne University's Commuter Affairs will host the second annual free "potluck" Thanksgiving dinner at the Market House.

The hope is that neighbors — long-time residents and short-term student residents — will get to know one another. A homemade side dish is welcome.

The South Side Chamber of Commerce is organizing the annual South Side Holiday Celebration on Dec. 2 from 6 to 8 p.m. There will be musical and artistic performances, tree lighting, bake sale, photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and more.

The South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association will hold its Slopes Holiday Party on Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. At 6:15 p.m., the dedication ceremony of the new Pylon at the Triangle Garden, corner of 21st and Josephine streets, will take place.

The Brashear Association will hold its annual Holiday Open House on Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. Toy and food donations may be dropped off at that time.


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