Old Allegheny library best suited for tenants who need archival space

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The search continues for new tenants and uses for the Allegheny Regional Branch library building in Allegheny Center.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is vacating the building at the end of the year. The building’s other main tenant, the New Hazlett Theater, is spearheading a plan to study possible building upgrades and find tenants to replace the library, both of which would help control energy costs.

Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects, the firm performing the study, gave a second presentation to the community on Wednesday night, March 18. Much of the information was similar to what they presented at their first meeting in early February, except for the admission that they are now studying the possibility of forgoing the building’s present steam heating system in favor of geothermal power.

The firm’s Sallyann Kluz admitted the idea was more of a wish than a sure thing but said a mechanical engineer was analyzing the feasibility of such an option.

Kluz said the initial cost for drilling the geothermal wells would be about $250,000 but would generate cost savings of between 25 to 40 percent annually. At present, the building’s energy costs are close to $250,000 a year.

As for future tenants, partner Karen Loysen said the preference is still for performing arts groups, especially those with a need for archival space, because of a desire to keep the building open to the public in some fashion.

“If you leave the stacks in place, the space is pretty much only useful for some type of archival tenant,” Loysen said.

Large areas on the first and second floors house structural book stacks, which actually hold up the mezzanine floors. Loysen and Kluz said keeping the stacks in place makes economic sense because tearing them down would subtract from the building’s total square feet.

 “The idea for a bunch of small businesses [or groups] has been ruled out,” Kluz said. One reason is that many of the smaller spaces are only accessible through larger rooms, and this would complicate an office setting.

The first floor structural stacks space is 9,600 square feet, including the mezzanine. The second floor structural stacks take up 12,000 square feet, including its mezzanine.

Loysen said there is a possibility that the city could lease the top floor to a for-profit business and the bottom to a public entity. Either way, she said the building will likely rent for between $8 and $16 per square foot.

Another option is to convert one of the reading rooms into a small convention space that could be used for smaller conferences, concerts or plays that don’t require the Hazlett’s 432-seat theater.

“There is a lack of those types of spaces in the city,” said Sarah Radelet, executive director of the New Hazlett Theater.

Both architects agreed that whatever the final decision is, the building requires a “big idea” attached to it, such as one larger tenant or use, in order to sustain the other tenants.

Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects will unveil their final report at a community meeting at 6:30 p.m., April 5, at the New Hazlett Theater.

 
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