Phipps Conservatory to take over old Irish Centre in Squirrel Hill

PITTSBURGH — The Irish Centre was a cultural and educational hub for decades, but for years it sat empty. Now, Phipps Conservatory is giving it a new life.

For months the streets of Squirrel Hill were lined with signs that read “NO FRICK N’WAY” as residents pushed back against a proposal to redevelop the empty Irish Centre located on Forward Avenue just outside of the Frick Park entrance into 160 condos that would span eight stories high.

That plan was nixed, and this week Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden announced that they purchased the four-acre site for nearly $800,000.

“When it came up available again this past September and November, we decided to go for it again,” said Richard Piacentini, Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Garden CEO.

Piacentini told Channel 11 News they plan to re-purpose the aging building and remove the old pool, turning overgrown weeds into the headquarters for the Conservatory’s Homegrown Edible Garden, a nursery for plants, and a laboratory for research.

“Phipps is located in Schenley Park it’s a 440-acre park but we are landlocked we’ve run out of room so this will allow us to expand in an area,” he said.

Since 2013 the edible garden program has installed nearly 400 raised-bed vegetable gardens in Homewood, Larimer, Belmar, East Hills, and Hazelwood.

“We are going in and we are building raised beds vegetable gardens in people’s backyards and giving them access to fresh healthy food,” he said.

Channel 11 News asked residents what they think of this new plan. While some said they would have liked to see some more affordable housing options, others said they are excited to have Phipps Conservatory as their new neighbor.

“I think it’s really welcoming that’s really nice idea, it’s a really good place and we find it cool,” said Irma Vallecr, a resident of Squirrel Hill.

The deal is finalized an estimated completion date for renovations has not yet been announced.

Download the FREE WPXI News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Channel 11 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch WPXI NOW

Comments on this article