Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Graciano Helps City Restore Pride in Its Buildings' Appearance

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Graciano Helps City Restore Pride in Its Buildings' Appearance

Article excerpt

Before steel was king, Pittsburgh had brick.

Builders in the 1700s forged masonry to help shape the burgeoning frontier town. Local clay was effective for brickwork, after all, and the Scots-Irish, English and other immigrants were well-versed in the trade.

"Obviously, there's more permanence associated with masonry building, as well," said John A. Martine, a principal at the Downtown architecture and design firm Strada. He said the longest-lived examples can last centuries.

The approach has stuck in Pittsburgh, which counts more than 150 masonry structures among some 300 city-owned buildings, said Cas Pellegrini, a city project manager. O'Hara-based Graciano Corp. has rehabilitated many over the past several years, logging roughly 20 restoration projects for the city since 2014.

"It's so much cheaper to maintain a building than it is to tear it down" and build anew, said Donald McDevitt, a vice president at Graciano.

Still, he said, years of deterioration is typical in city buildings that the company restores. Mr. Pellegrini, who works in the city's architecture division, said that stems largely from Pittsburgh's placement under state Act 47, a designation that dates to 2003.

Meant to stabilize strapped municipalities, the Act 47 program has closely regulated city spending. And it meant about a decade of limited capital maintenance across Pittsburgh's public buildings, from police stations to fire halls, Mr. Pellegrini said. A lot of them date from the 1940s, '50s and '60s.

"They're just beautiful pieces that we have restored because they're our history here," Mr. Pellegrini said. "Until you clean them up, until you get them functional again, you really don't know what you have."

He cheered Graciano, a fourth-generation, family-owned corporation that has worked in masonry and concrete restoration for more than 100 years. Employing up to 200 skilled journeymen each year, the firm centers much of its work in New York, including high-profile projects such as the Waldorf Astoria hotel rehabilitation.

Closer to home, Graciano employs about 30 to 70 journeymen a year in Allegheny County -- it all depends on how much work is in demand, Mr. …

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