By Joe Wiercinski
Herald Staff Writer
Construction workers with jackhammers knocked out crumbling concrete. They’ve cut out and replaced reinforcement bars rusted by salt and water. They’re replacing support beams and pouring new concrete as part of the repairs to the Sharon parking garage.
The 39-year-old building at Vine Avenue and Pitt Street was long overdue for an upgrade and its condition lately had become a worrisome safety hazard, City Manager Scott Andrejchak said.
With $531,000 from a 2005 state grant that had been intended for a downtown pedestrian bridge project that didn’t work out, Andrejchak said council wanted to know from HHSDR Architects/Engineers, Sharon, how much a complete renovation would cost and how much of it the city could afford.
“HHSDR bid the job for all levels and with all the bells and whistles and that would have cost about $1.3 million,” Andrejchak said. “Then we went through and concentrated on public safety first and the most important pieces. We’re doing as much as we can with the money we have.”
The budget of about $588,000 is enough to repair the roof, support beams and to replace parking decks throughout the five-level garage. However, there’s money to light only the first two levels, install fencing and security gates and for a backup generator, project architect Vincent Ordinario said.
Employees of general contractor Carl Walker Construction Co., Pittsburgh, will wrap up structural repairs in about a week. Perimeter fencing and security are next on the list.
“The garage has three entrances that will get coiling overhead grilles,” Ordinario said. “They will be electrically operated so the city can open the garage in the morning and close it when it isn’t being used to keep people out overnight.”
Electrical contractor Becdel Controls Inc., of Hubbard, will install conduit, wiring and light fixtures for the first two levels that will be available for parking.
The upper levels of the garage will be closed off for now but will be ready for wiring and lights later whenever the city comes up with the money to finish the job, Andrejchak said.
“I think it’s going to generate some activity in that part of town,” he said. “When this work is finished, the parking garage will be an asset and it’s secure as well.”
The contract calls for completion of repairs in October.
Built for $2 million in 1974, the garage with 350 spaces and has drawn criticism from the beginning that it wasn’t needed and cost too much. City officials previously refinanced the construction bond that now is scheduled to be paid off in 2026 when the garage will be 52 years old.
Andrejchak said he has heard many of the old “white elephant” stories but added that the condition of the garage was an urgent problem that demanded action.
“We had some safety concerns and we looked at several options,” he said. “I think time will show it was the right decision to do the renovation now.”