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An artist's rendering of the new Pittsburgh Playhouse.

Get ready for a new stage at Point Park University.

President Paul Hennigan presided over a gathering of invited guests and the media on Thursday, Dec. 4, to unveil the designs of Point Park's new Pittsburgh Playhouse, which will be located on Forbes Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh.

"We believe the new Pittsburgh Playhouse will be a game-changer for Downtown Pittsburgh," Hennigan said. "Not only will the new facility be a dynamic learning environment for students in our Conservatory of Performing Arts, it will allow their creative process to be an integral part of the Downtown experience."

Legendary actress Shirley Jones speaks at a Dec. 4 press conference to announce plans for the new Pittsburgh Playhouse in Downtown Pittsburgh. | Photo by Christopher RolinsonWhen Point Park envisioned a new Pittsburgh Playhouse, one of its foremost considerations was to create a state-of-the art learning center where students could merge their energy, talent and ambition into a central location.

Set to open in 2017, the 92,000-square-foot structure will be located on approximately 1.6 acres of land along the Forbes Avenue corridor between Wood and Smithfield streets. The site is close to two major, ongoing construction projects - PNC's new world headquarters and The Gardens at Market Square by Millcraft.

On hand to celebrate the announcement was Academy Award-winning actress and singer Shirley Jones, a Pittsburgh Playhouse graduate and honorary co-chair of the new Pittsburgh Playhouse campaign. Jones has been a long-time champion of Point Park and its theater program.

"The Playhouse is very near and dear to my heart," she said. "I think this will absolutely make Pittsburgh an even ... more beautiful city."

Backstage is forestage

The new playhouse is a complex, large-scale project that will encompass three structures when complete. The new building will be seamlessly interwoven with two existing historic structures - the current University Center, designed by Frederick J. Osterling for the Colonial Trust Company, and the Stock Exchange Building, designed by prominent architect Charles M. Bartberger.

Designed by Cleveland-based architecture firm Westlake Reed Leskosky, the new playhouse will offer the public an intimate view of the making of art, as large windows offer an unobstructed view of performance venues typically shielded from observation. A hangar door will connect one theater inside the playhouse to the outdoor courtyard, providing students the opportunity to perform for the Downtown public at large.

Corporate gifts launch fundraising effort

The new Pittsburgh Playhouse

The University is announcing a $74 million campaign for the playhouse project, which includes site assembly, a very generous parking arrangement and a maintenance endowment. It will cost $53 million to build and furnish the playhouse.

To date, the University has completed $45 million in funding, including $14 million from Point Park University, its trustees and campaign leadership, corporate gifts totaling $18 million, a $5 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant and $8 million in foundation gifts.

Including the sale of the playhouse in Oakland and gifts that are pending, the University will need to raise an additional $20 million to complete the project. The $18 million in corporate gifts comes from a group of corporations and represents significant investments from The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., the PNC Foundation and Highmark Health.

"Point Park University is helping to change our city's Downtown and the new playhouse will be a lively addition," said David Holmberg, president and CEO, Highmark Health. "People who live in vibrant and vital communities lead more active, healthy lives. Highmark Health is committed to supporting education at all levels, as well as preserving our national recognition as a leader in arts and culture, both of which are integral parts of our community."

"For decades, PNC has been a leading supporter of arts and cultural organizations in communities where we do business," said William S. Demchak, chairman, president and CEO of PNC. "In recent years, as we have expanded our own Downtown Pittsburgh campus, we have been delighted to witness all that Point Park University has done to help lead the revitalization of the city's central business district. And we are pleased today to announce both a grant from the PNC Foundation and our gift of free parking for patrons of the new theater at Point Park."

Historic façades become Playhouse focal points

Preservation will be a key element to the Pittsburgh Playhouse. An urban courtyard - a two-story outdoor plaza and colonnade - will feature three Forbes Avenue façades that will be meticulously deconstructed, then reconstructed as major focal pieces.

"The University has conceived of an excellent way to preserve the most important elements and ornamentals, such as the façade of the former Royal building, by incorporating them as sculptural elements in the new playhouse," noted Arthur P. Ziegler, president of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.

More About: Pittsburgh Playhouse, Conservatory of Performing Arts