Saul Markowitz, President, Markowitz Communications
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Photos_Benedum Center marquee, Courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Announces
After 35 years, Benedum Center’s marquees getting a much-needed historic renovation
PITTSBURGH, April 26, 2022— The marquees on the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts – one of the busiest theaters in North America –are slated for greatly needed repairs. After 35 years, both the marquee on 7th Street and the Stanley Photoplay board on Penn Avenue, will be refurbished.
For architect Alan Hohlfelder, it’s the capstone of a 38-year-career – that began with the Benedum Center in 1984. He worked on the Benedum’s $43 million conversion from the vacant Stanley Theater (initially constructed in 1928).
“Because it’s such a landmark in the city of Pittsburgh, it holds a special place in my heart,” says Hohlfelder. “When I go to shows, I appreciate everything that this facility has been able to do for the city of Pittsburgh. It has aged very well over time and can do so many things theatrically. It’s great to see so many things we did in ‘84 pay off for shows that are happening today.”
The renovated signs will maintain the classic look and feel while upgrading their functionality and reducing energy consumption. The project – funded by a generous Campaign pledge of $1 million from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation – underwent extensive review by the City of Pittsburgh Planning Commission, the Zoning Board of Adjustment, and the Historic Review Commission to ensure that the Benedum Center maintains the appearance that earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
“The challenge is to address the deterioration on the marquee,” says Hohlfelder. “And make sure it can be restored in an identical way to how you see it now. It involves a lot of custom metalwork and integrating updated displays. We’re going to match the style and colors in the original sign.”
Currently, the painted surfaces show noticeable signs of rust and deterioration. While some areas on the main marquee need new paint and minor replacement parts, other portions of the signage are in need of newly fabricated replacements. The Stanley Photoplay board on Penn Avenue – which has degraded more quickly due to its proximity to street-level traffic – will be removed completely and sent to a local company for repair.
Upgrading the signs’ lighting and technology will help the Benedum Center with critical energy efficiencies and cost savings. Perhaps more importantly, the upgraded and refurbished marquees will beautify the Benedum and the Cultural District as a whole, reminding visitors, residents, and patrons of the ability of the arts to spark economic and cultural transformation.
Three Pittsburgh-area businesses – an architecture firm, a construction company, and a sign fabricator – have been tapped to perform the work, keeping the money spent on restoration in the local economy.
“The Cultural Trust is thrilled to receive this wonderful funding from the Benedum Foundation to restore our flagship theater, the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts,” says Kevin McMahon, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust president and CEO. “This much-needed historic renovation will occur in 2022, as we are welcoming large crowds back to the Cultural District.”
Though the timeline could change, the plan is to begin to disassemble the marquees this spring and complete the restoration this fall in time for the 35th anniversary of the reopening of the Stanley Theater as the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts.
“The Benedum Foundation was honored to help fund a portion of the 1980s restoration of the Stanley Theater into the present day Benedum Center,” says Foundation President Jen Giovannitti. “So, naturally, we were interested in participating in this project. The care that the Cultural Trust has taken to maintain the historic look of the marquees is consistent with its thoughtful stewardship of the Cultural District over the decades, and we are proud to partner with them to modernize the signs while making them worthy of the historic landmark they are attached to.”
Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has overseen one of Pittsburgh’s most historic transformations: turning a seedy red-light district into a magnet destination for arts lovers, residents, visitors, and business owners. Founded in 1984, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is a non-profit arts organization whose mission is the cultural and economic revitalization of a 14-block arts and entertainment/residential neighborhood called the Cultural District. The District is one of the country’s largest land masses “curated” by a single nonprofit arts organization. A major catalytic force in the city, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is a unique model of how public-private partnerships can reinvent a city with authenticity, innovation, and creativity. Using the arts as an economic catalyst, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has holistically created a world-renowned Cultural District that is revitalizing the city, improving the regional economy, and enhancing Pittsburgh’s quality of life. Thanks to the support of foundations, corporations, government agencies, and thousands of private citizens, the Trust stands as a national model of urban redevelopment through the arts.
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