Pitt purchases Oakland social club building for nearly $5 million

Pitt purchased an Oakland social club building on Bigelow Boulevard in late March for $4.95 million, according to Allegheny County real estate records.

The Twentieth Century Club building, located at 4201 Bigelow Blvd. across Parkman Avenue from the Science Center, was put up for sale about six months ago following dwindling revenue and membership. Pitt currently has a $45 million net deficit with a hiring freeze in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and is facing potential budget cuts of as much as 10% next year.

University spokesperson Kevin Zwick said Pitt was already committed to the March 27 purchase before the pandemic.

“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Pittsburgh agreed to acquire this building with the intention of preserving it in this historic district,” Zwick said.

Zwick added that the deal did not meet the threshold of requiring approval by the property and facilities committee of the board of trustees, but said the panel was notified of the deal. This committee is tasked with reviewing and approving acquired property, lease arrangements and renovation projects.

The building was originally constructed in 1911, and has historically been a meeting place for the eponymous Twentieth Century Club, a women’s group established in 1894. It was also a popular location for wedding receptions in its art-deco style ballroom.

Inside, the club also contains three meeting and banquet rooms that can hold more than 100 people, three private dining rooms to seat 280 people, four lounges, two libraries and a conference room.

Zwick said Pitt hasn’t made any final decisions about how it will use the building.

“We are in the early stages of the planning process for the property and have yet to make final decisions about its future,” Zwick said.

The Twentieth Century Club is not the only Oakland social club to close in recent years — the Pittsburgh Athletic Association entered bankruptcy in 2017 before Shadyside developer Walnut Capital stepped in with a 2018 reorganization plan for the club’s building.

Pitt agreed last June to lease 30,000 square feet of space at the PAA building, located across from the Cathedral of Learning at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Bigelow Boulevard, at an annual cost of about $1.2 million. This deal is reportedly on hold, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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