Old prison site in Pittsburgh up for sale

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Pennsylvania is looking to transform an old prison in Pittsburgh, and state leaders want to know what you think.

The state is looking for a buyer for the old SCI Pittsburgh, formerly known as Western Penitentiary. The facility closed in 2017. The prison’s main building dates back to the 1800s.

The state is inviting public comment on the potential future use of the land. Click here to read more about it and to submit comments to the state. You have until June 26 to comment.

“My great-grandfather was a contractor on this building,” said Dave Biggs, who now lives in McCandless but would go fishing in the Ohio River as a child with his brother.

He’d often admire his family’s work: 42 buildings on more than 21 acres of property in Pittsburgh’s Marshall Shadeland neighborhood.

Now owned by the state, the property was most recently known as the State Correctional Institution (SCI of Pittsburgh) before closing for good in 2017. Since then…

“It’s been used for movie sets. We’ve occasionally had the trail close because there were here filming movies,” said Diane Denis of Squirrel Hill.

“The show ‘Mindhunter’ was one of them that was filmed out here,” said David Denis of Squirrel Hill.

The Pennsylvania Department of General Services is looking to find a permanent solution, hiring an engineering and consulting firm to conduct a feasibility study and asking the public for its input.

Some people say they wouldn’t rule out demolition if it meant something bigger and better coming in.

“You can see both sides of this one. It’s always a desire to keep historical buildings, and this one certainly has a lot of history to it, it has the look of that as well….but at the same time, it’s valuable riverfront property,” David Denis said.

Others we spoke with want to see it repurposed.

“Use what you have here, it’s kind of a nice historic building,” said Tom Ross of the North Hills.

“I ride this bike trail and see hundreds of homeless people and underprivileged people. Why couldn’t the state open this up to these people, refurbish, give them a place to live, maybe start some workshops, teach them some skills.” said Biggs. “I’m sure they’d rather sleep in a building than in a tent by the riverside.”

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