Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Historic Uptown Building Taking on a New Persona Former Film Storage Structure Envisioned as 'A Cooperative Work Environment for Creative Types'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Historic Uptown Building Taking on a New Persona Former Film Storage Structure Envisioned as 'A Cooperative Work Environment for Creative Types'

Article excerpt

With sunlight pouring through rows of large windows and skylights in the old Paramount Pictures Film Exchange, Uptown, photographer Alexander Denmarsh held out his arms and said incredulously, "They were going to tear this place down."

Demolition was what UPMC wanted to happen at 1727 Boulevard of the Allies. It was thwarted when the Historic Review Commission granted the building historic status in January 2010.

UPMC sold the building for $50,000 to Rick Schweikert, a Realtor who was involved in the decade-long Gist Street Reading Series nearby. His purchase set the former local distribution hub of Paramount Studios on a halting journey of reuse after two decades of vacancy.

With shareholders and big plans, Mr. Schweikert raised money for a new roof and an updated electrical feed, but last fall he passed the weighty project on to Mr. Denmarsh for what he had paid, and Mr. Denmarsh bought out the shareholders.

By September, Mr. Denmarsh said, the place should be ready to accommodate Denmarsh Photography's growing business and expand StartUptown, an incubator of small businesses founded by artist and designer Dale McNutt. It currently houses nine start-ups in a 12,700- square-foot, mixed-use building on Fifth Avenue that he and his wife, Jeanne, also live in.

The Paramount building is StartUptown's "first opportunity to create a campus," said Mr. McNutt, who also is negotiating on a third building in the neighborhood to accommodate more start-ups.

"I could fill three spaces this size right now," he said during an interview at the Fifth Avenue site. "I have had to decline requests."

Mr. Schweikert, who had hoped to use the building for performance and film events, called Mr. McNutt before selling last year to discuss how to take the Paramount to the next level. "And I said, I can put 60 people in here," Mr. McNutt said.

Twelve companies of 60 workers under the aegis of StartUptown will occupy 6,000 square feet of the Paramount building.

"One of my visions," said Mr. …

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