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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A lot of city functions take place at 200 Ross Street, but Mayor Bill Peduto wants the city out of that building.
“It’s not up to code in pretty much any way,” says Peduto. “If you’ve gone through the place, it reminds you of like a 1960s Russian prison.”
The mayor wants to buy the former Art Institute building at 420 Boulevard of the Allies, saying it’s cheaper than upgrading 200 Ross Street.
“[The building at] 420 Boulevard became the least cost, most efficient model to use,” says Peduto.
Maybe, but with just one week’s notice, he’s asked council to approve a $40 million dollar bond issue, just under $28 million to buy the building and $10 million to build out the facility for city use.
“We still have a lot of questions, and one week is definitely not enough time to get them answered,” city councilwoman Deb Gross, a Highland Park Democrat, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Monday.
Goss says the same people who ran down 200 Ross would be in charge of the new building.
“The URA and the Housing Authority, together with the city, have been taking terrible, horrible care of this building for 60 years or more, and now they want a new building,” notes Gross. “So why should we borrow $40 million of the taxpayers’ money to buy them a building that they may take very terrible, horrible care for the next four years?”
City councilman Corey O’Connor of Swisshelm Park also questions both the rush to sign off on the purchase and the cost.
“At the end of the day, we are going to be spending up to $40 million of taxpayer money, and we did it in a week-and-a-half and we only saw one proposal,” complains O’Connor.
But the mayor insists the new building offers advantages to city residents.
“The entire first floor will become one-stop permit location for people,” he says.
One advantage to the location on the Boulevard of the Allies is parking.
There are perhaps maybe a dozen or so parking spots right next to the building, and the mayor says he’s going to put meters there so that folks who need permits or have other business inside the building will have easy access to parking.
But it is a lot of money.
In the preliminary vote last week, Gross and O’Connor voted no, along with city councilwoman Darlene Harris, with city councilwoman Theresa Kail Smith of Westwood abstaining.
A final vote on this is expected Tuesday.