Renovations to former PAA building continue amid pandemic


Rachel Ashen | Staff Photographer

After closing in April 2017, the Pittsburgh Athletic Association building, now owned by Walnut Capital, is planned to reopen for occupancy in spring 2021.

By Alex Nieves, For The Pitt News

As students make their way down Fifth Avenue, it’s hard not to notice the empty building sitting across from the Cathedral of Learning. The former Pittsburgh Athletic Association building was home to the eponymous social organization that operated for 108 years. It officially closed its doors in April 2017 and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May 2017.

Since then, Walnut Capital, a local property management company, has acquired the building and is currently renovating it. Construction began in late summer 2018 and was expected to last 18-24 months, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the state halted nonessential construction. Gov. Tom Wolf allowed all construction to resume on May 8 with new safety protocols, prompting construction on the building to resume.

Todd Reidbord, president and founding partner of Walnut Capital, said he expects the building to be ready for occupancy in spring 2021. He said Walnut Capital is completing the renovation while following National Park Service standards for the rehabilitation of historic buildings.

“On the inside we are restoring the grand lobby and the first floor ballrooms to their original conditions,” Reidbord said. “The building will have all new elevators, HVAC systems, fire protection and electrical systems designed to the latest building codes.”

The University approved a lease for space in the PAA building for Learning Research and Development Center employees, as Pitt’s master plan includes the demolition of the LRDC and construction of a new recreation center on the site.

The pandemic has thrown off the construction’s original course, but Reidbord said Walnut Capital is taking many precautions to ensure the safety of workers during these unprecedented times.

“Our general contractor, PJ Dick, has followed all of the state and federal guidelines for worker safety due to COVID,” Reidbord said. “This includes temperature checks, contract tracing information, social distancing, mandatory mask-wearing and special precautions if a worker is found to have tested positive.”