Community Vision for the Adaptive Reuse of Schenley High School

The community has created a vision for the adaptive reuse of the Schenley High School building in advance of its likely sale to a developer by the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

OPDC collaborated with partners from Oakland and the Hill District to finalize this report and present it at the August School Board meeting. Community members are encouraged to send letters with their input to either/both of the following contacts to assist the board members in making an informed decision.

[one_half]Dr. Linda S. Lane, Superintendent
Pittsburgh Public Schools
341 S. Bellefield Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA  15213
email:[/one_half][one_half_last]William Isler (District 4)
Board of Education
Pittsburgh Public Schools
341 S. Bellefield Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA  15213
Please copy:
The Office of Councilman William Peduto
510 City-County Building
414 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA  15219

Please use this webpage to view the report, appendices, meeting materials and provide your comments, feedback and ideas regarding the future of this building:

[tab_first] The Future of Schenley High School: A Community Vision Plan
Benchmark Sheets
Capacity Study Sheets I – Site and Zoning
Capacity Study Sheets II – Existing Conditions
Capacity Study Sheets III – Potential Scenarios [/tab_first]

15 Responses to Community Vision for the Adaptive Reuse of Schenley High School

  1. Rebekkah June 28, 2012 at 3:13 am #

    Welcome to the Schenley High School adaptive reuse plan comments forum!

  2. Christina July 2, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    It would be great to see an aquaponics operation or green roof incorporated into the use of the building. Depending on who operated it and their business model, It could help to feed the local community, create jobs and/or provide job training.

  3. A. V. Robinson July 2, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    I would love to see the first floor of this magnificent building turned into an incubator site for small, budding businesses (particularly those from depressed neighborhoods) and those agencies that can work with them to assist them with technical, financial and other business services (SBA, CEED, etc.) Then, with the rest of the building, apartments for seniors.

  4. Cynthia Golden July 3, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    I believe that the Board of Education should NOT sell Schenley. It is an asset to the city and to the public schools, and should be considered for re-opening as a high school again, especially given the apparent lack of an asbestos problem. Its athletic facilities could be put to immediate use, and due care and consideration given to a plan for repairs to the classroom spaces for future generations, when funding can be found. I believe the city will regret the sale of this magnificent space in years to come. I hope the Board does the right thing.

    • Simon Noel July 23, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

      I wholeheartedly agree. It’s an insult to the cultural diversity that Schenley brought to the Pittsburgh Community if the high school is not reopened. Moreover, the memory of athletic greats can only be preserved if the school is preserved.

      I never attended Schenley, but consider myself “of Schenley”.

  5. Melissa July 4, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    Green: Recent calculations indicate that it takes 35-50 years for an energy efficient new building to save the amount of energy lost in demolishing an existing building. New construction, no matter how green, consumes energy, creates greenhouse gases, and generates landfill waste. Moreover, building a new, energy-efficient home entails an often-overlooked environmental cost: the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere during construction. According to a study by the Empty Homes Agency called “New Tricks with Old Bricks,” offsetting that carbon emission can take as long as 50 years. So, by reusing Schenley we will be doing the green thing!

    Possible Re-Use: Getting the building on the tax roll with so much city land already tax exempt is of importance, but we should not over look a tax-exempt institution. We have examples in other residential neighborhoods of schools, churches, and other structures turned into offices and community centers – presumably tax exempt entities (Wilkins School in Regent Sq, Wightman School in Squirrel Hill, and Union Project in Highland Park).

    Condos and/or rental apartments. It is my understanding that the Uptown school on 5th Ave (formerly Excel Kitchen) will be converted to apartments and seems to be a positive example of adaptive reuse. A rental for people in the medical and university fields including possible interns, grad students, adjunct faculty, sabbatical replacement, etc. is very conceivable given the location. And what if it did have some other business: café, yoga /exercise studio, etc. and some offices as well. The tenants and surrounding neighbors could make use of and support these businesses and nearby Centre Ave businesses.

    While I understand that others are against this idea, remaining open to some form of student housing (perhaps as part of a mixed use) could be explored. I am a landlord to undergrad Pitt and CMU students and have had a very favorable experience. There could be a variety of ways to control the situation. With proper management, it could be limited to students who are involved in community service, honors students, etc. Also there could be a mandated mix of grad and undergrads and restrict the undergrads to juniors and seniors (or just seniors).

    Small business incubator space (perhaps as part of mixed-use). Various grants and tax credits go to support this. Perhaps as an Oakland extension of Uptown’s incubator – with great access to Pitt and CMU.

    Of course, we could all brainstorm with various mixed use ideas – from nonprofits and office space to antiques malls, day care, restaurants, rock climbing walls, an athletic club using the gym/ swimming pool, and various other businesses!

    Marketing to developers: I believe the quality of the marketing process will determine the quality of the actual project. National developers may be interested in Pgh, but they do not know what we have available. If the marketing process is not far-ranging, then we may have limited options. If there is a more aggressive RFP process going nationally and even internationally who knows what might be proposed! The various stakeholders/community members should be able to hear developers’ proposals and have some input beyond this process.

    How do we connect to businesses – local and national – that may be seeking such a space, but may not know of our great Schenley building?

    Construction phase: Construction phase sensitivity as well as careful thinking about long term impact (parking, trash collection, etc.)! Given the residential area, there should be no trash collection between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am.

  6. Robert Schmidt July 5, 2012 at 10:33 pm #


    Fantastic presentation highlighting the history and qualities of the school. It is also wonderful to see the community being proactive in thinking of alternative possibilities for the school. Would the love to be kept updated on the process and would be interested in case studying the building for our research –

  7. Kelly Mednis July 6, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    I believe that the Schenley building should retain, in some way, its mission – education. Schenley’s motto was “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve” and her alums as well as the greater community would be well served with a continued vision for learning in this space. I think the BOE is short sighted in its plan to sell the building but if they can’t be good stewards of the space then I hope the next group to take over will be visionaries. The Schenley Plaza space to me is an example of respecting Mary Schenley’s vision, maintaining ‘green’ characteristics, improving the community, and seeing space for more than just square footage. The school could be a bookend for that style of mixed-community public/private space. I also think that Schenley served a diverse population for over 100 years, so I hope that her future will serve more than one population, whether that be seniors, students, or businesses.

  8. Megan Vaites July 6, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    In my opinion, Schenley High School should stay has it has always been, a school. It’s a true gem. Magnificent architecture. Brilliant lighting. PPS let this building suffer. I was just there on a tour not long ago and it made me sick. They have left it alone to deteriorate. PPS has spent a ton of money on other buildings that are still not sufficient to house high school students (gym size, lack of a pool, etc.). Schenley sits in the heart of Oakland, with unbelievable access to some of the best museums, universities, and facilities, all within a student’s reach while in high school. Fix the school. Add to it’s legacy by returning it to it’s glory. “Enter to learn. Go forth to serve.” PPS owes her the chance to do it again. Putting the money into this building will be an investment, both in history, the futre, and the thousands of children that would walk her halls. Is there no way we can do fundraising to help the cause?

  9. Carol July 6, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

    All the ideas for mixed uses are very interesting interesting. I was not involved in the opposition to the closing and am wondering whether these ideas were raised with the BOE at that time.

    Were these ideas were raised last fall when the BOE almost sold Schenley for peanuts. Can anyone comment? It might help understand the position of the Board of Ed. and the resolve of the community.
    There were a few people who tried to reason with the Board at their public meetings. THe Board was clearly not in the business of selling real estate. They were very concerned about the liabilities the building represents. Anyone have ideas to give to the board about addressing the costs of maintaining the building and handling the debt associated with the building as a way of buying time for an effective marketing program?

    I echo Melissa’s comments on marketing. There was none last fall. There are option. THe Board needs to hear this loud and clear.

  10. holly rassnick July 8, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

    Obviously, Oakland needs a public school.

    If that isn’t going to happen, I would love to see a small Continuous Care Retirement Community come to this location. While there are a few CCRCs in the suburbs, I am not familiar with any within the city. A CCRC could use the auditorium for programs & the swimming pool & gym for physical therapy. UPMC is affiliated with some retirement communities, as are several religious denominations. This is a largely selfish suggestion, since I would love to be able to stay in Oakland as I get older.

    My other favorite, and possibly most realistic, idea would be to have mixed income housing in the building. There are several successful mixed income developments all around Pittsburgh. This could be a wonderful opportunity to draw the community together & still have a profitable business venture that would increase the tax base. The Urban Redevelopment Authority is a good resource for more information:

  11. Hanson July 10, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    I’ve heard of a couple of groups in Pittsburgh looking into co-housing. Any possibility of getting them interested in Schenley?

    I would also reinforce the CCRC idea. I know anything like that would take time to organize, but nothing will happen overnight.

  12. Nearby Neighbor July 11, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

    As a neighbor to Schenley HS and as a tax-payer, my vote would be for Schenley to reopen as what it was built to be: a public school. The Board made a huge mistake taking away this school from its long-time neighbors and should work to repair the damages done by reopening the school.

  13. Frank Sowa July 11, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

    Schenley HS should be converted into a research facility — and based on where it is located it should focus on the new sciences used in biomedical advancements.

    These should include but not be limited to resolving many of the special health needs of our returning military veterans. (While DoD research and technology in this area is top of the line — think of how much more value it would have if it could be fast-tracked into the civilian-sectors beginning in the fine medical centers we possess in Pittsburgh-Oakland-Lawrenceville.) R&D at CMU, UPMC (separate from Pitt), the University of Pittsburgh, Chatham University, Carlow, and West Penn/Allegheny Hospitals, Children’s, and supported by the Catholic, Muslim, Jewish; Masonic and other associations with biomedical research foundations that are based in Oakland — this should be a highly-successful venture.

    Some of the specific areas to include would be medical devices, medical robotics, speech recognition systems, biometric recognition systems, genetics, human genomics, radiology, biomedical memistor research, surgical wire and spring technologies, magnetics, metamaterials, laser-based technologies, bioinformatics, bioengineering, pharmacological research, medical devices. advanced prosthetic devices, advanced prosthetic creative design, exoskelatal research, neuroscience, brain/machine link systems, OT and PT advancements, biomedical advancements for the elderly, and so forth.

    The first floor could hold a university sponsored incubator; and a VC-sponsored business accelerator along with training facilities. Another floor could be dedicated to networked engineering for the R&D laboratories.

    Such a research facility would first continue the work of schooling to meet the local needs of those who feel this mission is essential in Oakland. Second, it would benefit (intellectually and financially) and tap into the entire community as indicated above. Third it would create jobs (labs need a support staff — and that staff can get trained in new skills that will progress them in the 21st Century workforce). Fourth it may keep more biomedical investment in the Greater Pittsburgh Area rather than initiating it here, then moving elsewhere or offshore for the acceleration phase and beyond. Fifth, culturally, it would do a lot to continue shifting the Oakland culture in the right direction for optimal survival in the 21st Century.

  14. Rich E July 12, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    Sell the place. Use the money to improve the schools that remain open. Oakland has a high occupancy rate for office space, so it should be a relatively easy process. Pitt, CMU, UPMC, Walnut Capital, Mosites, or someone like American Eagle willing to commit to the city.

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