Hospital will be blasted for arena after all
'Controlled-collapse' failed last month
Friday, March 14, 2008
By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Forget the "controlled collapse." The real hardware is coming out in the latest attempt to bring down the defiant St. Francis Central Hospital.
After failing last month to take down the 10-story, 350,000-square-foot building using a technique called "controlled collapse," contractor Homrich Inc. will employ explosives to do the job.
The implosion is scheduled for 7 a.m. on March 22, according to the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority.
Homrich made the decision to implode the hospital in talks with the SEA and its consultants, said Doug Straley, SEA project executive.
"Our consultants agreed this was the safest, quickest way, using the best technology, to bring the building down," he said.
Mr. Straley said the contractor will take steps to protect two nearby religious buildings, Epiphany Church and Beth Hamedrash Hagodol-Beth Jacob Synagogue, from damage during the implosion. He did not believe there would be a need to do the same for Mellon Arena, located across Centre Avenue from the hospital.
The SEA is taking down the hospital to help clear the path for the new $290 million arena, which will be built between Centre and Fifth avenues. The building was one of 13 properties taken for the project.
Implosions also were used to bring down Three Rivers Stadium, a senior citizens high-rise on the North Side to make way for PNC Park and the roof of the old David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
Last month, contractors tried another method, the controlled collapse, which used precise cuts through more than 300 I-beams and steel cables in an effort to create a chain reaction to drop the hospital.
But the steel and concrete structure proved to be too difficult to budge, forcing the SEA back to the drawing board.
Some people near the hospital already have been notified of the new plan to implode the building.
At Washington Plaza apartments on Centre Avenue, residents have been told there will be no need to evacuate the building. However, the SEA will provide a bus for residents who don't want to stay. It will take them into the Hill District to watch the implosion.
Residents also have been asked to check their walls and ceilings for any pre-existing cracks in advance of March 22.
Mr. Straley said there likely will be a place to watch the implosion at the Melody Tent lot above the arena. The SEA is expected to release further details on the implosion next week.
Homrich, which was awarded an $868,000 contract for the demolition, has until June to complete the work. The Penguins hope to start construction of the arena this summer, with completion by the start of the 2010-11 season.