Demolition of abandoned houses is a battle in Pittsburgh. Tearing down old houses is a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

Ownership, the city owns 60 and its Urban Redevelopment Authority owns 20, a small fraction of the total.
The city can raze about 300 building a year with its $1.8 million demolition budget.
About 300 additional buildings are put onto the list each year.
About $7.8 million would be needed to tear down all of the condemned buildings.
Most condemned buildings are in Lincoln-Lemington, Larimer and the Hill District.
Backlog is 1,200 buildings.


Photo blogsEdit


  • Mayor Helps 'Redd-Up' Pittsburgh from in June, 2006. There are 1,200 abandoned homes in Pittsburgh, but only enough money to tear down 300 houses over the next three months.


City to end dice-and-pull building demolitionEdit

June 07, 2008, by Daniel Malloy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Addison Terrace high rise in the Hill District is pulled down in a second attempt yesterday.

After the second dicey demolition in three months, the city has decided to go back to leveling buildings the old fashioned way -- with explosives.

The high rise at Addison Terrace in the Hill District was finally leveled, using a method in which the steel-beamed building was cut into sections and torn down with cables, piece by piece. In the first attempt to fell the 15-story building two weeks ago, debris crashed into a neighboring rowhouse and knocked out a water line. The city put 15 families in hotels for two nights in case there was a gas leak.

For the second attempt, emergency management personnel swarmed the scene and all residents within range of any flying concrete were evacuated for the day.

The demolition company, [[Dore & Associates] of Bay City, Mich., worked with police and other emergency workers who set up a command center on site. Still, logistics were tricky, and there was confusion as to when large sections would come down, as police officers tried to keep pedestrians at a safe distance.

"This methodology that they used is not like, 'Five, four, three, two, one, boom,'" said Ray Demichiei, deputy emergency management supervisor.

The same dice-and-pull strategy was used on St. Francis Hospital, which was demolished in March to make way for the new Penguins arena. The method, called "controlled collapse," failed to bring down the hospital on the first try, so contractors resorted to implosion on the second go-round.

Public Safety Director Michael Huss said the building inspection department will not approve any more permits for controlled collapse after its brief debut.

Mr. Huss and Mr. Demichiei said they had never heard of controlled collapse before it was tried out on St. Francis, and they were puzzled as to why the Addison Terrace project was done that way.

Art Dore, chairman of Dore & Associates, said it was part of the contract that he couldn't use explosives, and he would have loved to. Mr. Demichiei pointed to a difficult implosion of the East Hills High Rise in December 2006 that took two tries as a possible reason the city might have taken a look at controlled collapse.

But at least for Addison Terrace, there was no significant harm done. The structure yesterday was a mangled steel and concrete corpse, and neighbors praised the orderly collapse.

"It was poetry in motion, like closing an accordion," said Evelyn Morgan, who lives three doors down from the vacant unit damaged by the first attempt.

"I have to give them credit. This time it fell beautiful."

Dore & Associates will pay to repair the damaged unit, and the slip-ups and delays -- Thursday's demolition lasted until nearly 5 p.m. after starting at 11 a.m. -- didn't add to the city's $444,500 tab. And, most importantly, no one was hurt.

Still, the headaches were enough to justify a return to the good old ka-boom.

"From our perspective, we understand what the cons are" of controlled collapse, Mr. Demichiei said. "It will cause your hair to go gray or fall out."

Darrell Sapp of the Post-Gazette contributed to this report. Daniel Malloy can be reached at or 412-263-1731.

Crews to emphasize safety in city razingEdit

March 07, 2008, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The City of Pittsburgh and the Allegheny County Health Department yesterday announced a joint effort to ensure the safety of residents during demolition of 59 homes in Hazelwood, and to make sure asbestos fibers don't escape the tumbling buildings.

It comes two weeks after the city's demolition contractor was cited for air pollution violations.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration announced that it expects to have department inspectors look at all of the homes prior to demolition to identify any environmental concerns. In the future, the city may require its demolition contractors to check for asbestos, or train city staff to do that. In the meantime, watering down debris can prevent fibers from disbursing.

On Feb. 21, the Health Department cited ROAC Inc., an East Hills-based contractor that won in bidding for the mass demolition job, for open burning and excessive dust.

ROAC bid to demolish the homes for $354,420. The blitz is the first of several planned for this year, when a doubling of the demolition budget should allow the city to take down as many as 600 abandoned homes.

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