Point Park is moving the Pittsburgh Playhouse—which draws some 60,000 theater-goers each year—from Oakland to its downtown campus.
The performance complex will be decked out with a 560-seat theater, two studio theaters, a 10,000-square-foot of space dedicated to set construction and costume design, and a 12,000-square-foot sound stage for cinema art. There will also be dressing rooms, rehearsal studios and a public cafe.
“We believe the new Pittsburgh Playhouse will be a game-changer for downtown Pittsburgh,” says Paul Hennigan, president of Point Park University.
This major undertaking, which could begin as early as spring 2015, will encompass three structures when complete. The complex is slated to open in 2017.
A 92,000-foot new construction will be integrated with two historic buildings—the Stock Exchange Building, which will also be renovated, and the University Center, which has already had been restored and houses the school’s Cinema Arts program.
Here are three ways the Pittsburgh Playhouse Project will invigorate downtown:
1. The infusion of a youthful vibe to the downtown cultural scene
Point Park will now infuse downtown’s cultural scene with a university-aged, performing-arts population. Downtown’s Creative and Performing Arts Magnet school (CAPA) offers a dynamic program for Pittsburgh kids grades 6-12.
Some 700 full-time students are enrolled in Point Park’s Conservatory of Performing Arts. The development of this performing arts complex—which will take up 1.6 acres of prime real estate along the Forbes Avenue corridor—will allow the students’ “creative process to be an integral part of the downtown experience,” says Hennigan.
2. Public performance art, a.k.a backstage as the new forestage
Public art is hot these days in Pittsburgh—check out our articles on street art and Market Square’s winter art installation—and Point Park is giving us another window into the arts—but in this case, it’s performing arts.
“Eighty percent of the time, there’s not a show going on at the Playhouse. The school, in an effort to showcase its mission, has designed the the new building with large, vertical windows that will remain open, offering the public a look inside to see what’s going on and what the students are doing,” says Lou Corsaro, Point Park’s managing director of marketing and public relations. This view will be accessible to people until about 30 minutes before any show—and after the show is over as well. “This will give people a window into what happens inside the playhouse,” he says.
“As far as we know, there is no other building in the U.S. designed this way,” says Corsaro. “It’s backstage as forestage.”
And there’s more: A hangar door connects one theater to an outdoor plaza—and the door slides open so students can practice and perform while the public gets to hang out and watch outdoor shows.
3. Meticulous preservation of our buildings
Point Park is “the steward of an extraordinary collection of turn-of-the-century properties,” says Hennigan. Its University Center is made up of four buildings, the oldest of which dates back to 1893, which has already been restored.
Now they are onto the historic Stock Exchange Building, built in 1903, and home to a host of marble floors and stairways and stained glass coffers—which haven’t been seen since the 1940s when an Art Deco ceiling was installed.
“There’s a certain element of awe when you stand and look up at the buildings of downtown—there’s something so unique about the structures of Pittsburgh,” he says, “and we want to preserve that.”
“We have always had an eye on restoring buildings the right way,” says Corsaro.
Of the $74 million needed to complete the project, Point Park has already secured $54 million from a state grant, foundations, corporate gifts, Point Park trustees and private donations, along with $14 million from the university.