About 25 people turned out to offer their ideas on future uses of the former Iron City Brewery in Lawrenceville last night.
No news broke out, but it was significant that, for the first time since neighborhood stakeholders began trying to meet with the former and now current owners, they succeeded.
The brewing company acted like they would begin the process a couple of years ago but they put the stakeholders off long enough to sell the property to Collier Development Co. last January.
It’s a city historic property, which means it is protected from unapproved demolitions, but several unapproved demolitions occured, for which Collier has since been fined in district court. What’s down is down — including old lamp posts that were pulled out the day before Tim Frew, the project manager, went to the Historic Review Commission to seek permission to pull them out.
He said the lamps were damaged before they were pulled out. A caller who witnessed the Bobcat driver doing the extraction said the lamps were not damaged until they were extracted.
Last night’s meeting was a propitious beginning. Nothing was destroyed in the process, although when I walked from the parking area back to Building O for the meeting, I walked past a 10-foot mountain of rubble piled up against Building D.
Not being an engineer, I wasn’t sure whether to be concerned but some architects are.
Onward! The master planning process has begun for the 9.5 acre property, for which architect Dennis Astorino, who is leading the design team, said “the potential is incredible.”
Incredible might be the right word. The place is a hodge podge of buildings — 16 remaining — that the brewery built as it grew through the late 19th and 20th centuries. The challenge is credible but big things have been done in this great old ‘burgh and they will continue to be done by people who have the vision and the will.
Many people were disappointed that more people didn’t turn out, but there will be four more chances, Dennis tells me.
The suggestions for future use included event space, such as for the Pittsburgh Blues Festival — which was held there in the past — , an indoor bike park and other recreation, a retrofit for housing a la the Heinz Lofts, light industry, a business incubator, educational and day care, a European style market, restaurants and movie theater, artists spaces and a museum.
The list of possible uses also included: no casinos, no Disneyfication and no Cheesecake Factory.
One participant told me he thinks Collier Development will wad all these ideas up and do what they’ve already decided to do. A lot of people who love their own ideas will probably think that if Collier decides that, say, a European-style market that close to the Strip might not be a practical move.
But this is the best sign stakeholders have had to date that Collier is listening and that their knowledge and appreciation of the history and soul of the site could come in handy as the project moves forward.