The final steel beam is in place on the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s new annex and executive director Harris Ferris says it’s cause for celebration.
“We are very optimistic, things are going well. The ‘topping out’ means the biggest construction risks are behind us,” he says.
The 14,000-square-foot annex is part of an expansion campaign by the PBT which has run out of space at its Strip District location. The $6.5 million annex, which will be connected to the PBT’s current building, will house two dance studios, expanded facilities for Pilates and other fitness classes, more space for locker rooms and changing areas, and study areas.
Enrollment at the PBT school has increased 75 percent over the past 10 years, the organization says. It projects that the new spaces in the annex will support a 40 percent enrollment increase over the next three years.
The current building, which houses its administrative offices and five rehearsal spaces, is where the company’s 30 full-time dancers rehearse and where the PBT instructs 1,000 students annually as part of its children’s, student, pre-professional and adult open divisions.
“The new studios will be larger, and less rectangular, which is better,” Ferris says. Large floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Liberty Avenue will add more light to the spaces as well, he adds.
IKM Architects designed the building, which will be called the Byham Center for Dance in honor of lead contributors Carolyn and Bill Byham. The general contractor on the project is Jendoco Construction Corp.
The new building will also allow PBT to expand its classes for dancers of all levels and its community offerings as well, Ferris adds.
“This annex will give us the space to engage more dancers from all backgrounds, whether they’re toddlers exploring creative movement, students pursuing ballet careers or adults seeking an inspiring fitness option.”
The PBT has a grand opening for the new annex planned for September and Ferris says things appear to be on track to meet that date. Once the annex is open, the PBT will then turn to the work of retrofitting its existing building which will be closed off while work is done.
But with the last of the steel in place, Ferris adds that he’s optimistic about the timeline for completion. “Now we have no more wild cards,” he jokes.