A crowd sits in chairs in front of a row of ceremonial shovels and hardhats
Features & Articles

Construction and renovation begins at the New Granada Theater

  • Community Impact
  • Our City/Our Campus

The Hill Community Development Corporation kicked off the start of its construction and renovation project for the Historic New Granada Theater and surrounding spaces with a groundbreaking ceremony on May 25.

With the development corporation leading construction and renovation, the ceremony marks the beginning of the initial $36 million development phase of the historic New Granada building and nearby retail spaces. 

The construction and renovation project includes apartments, performance areas, retail spaces, restaurants and 40 units of affordable office space.

The New Granada building is also set to be the future home of Pitt’s Hill District Community Engagement Center (CEC), which is currently based in the Blakey Program Center.

This new space will double the size of the CEC to 20,000 square feet. A STEAM studio will be a key component in the new space, offering programming around science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

The University will serve as an anchor tenant, offering classrooms, offices, additional spaces and programming for the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics, the School of Social Work, jazz studies and computer literacy efforts.

6 people use ceremonial shovels to break ground at a construction site

Pitt’s CECs are a part of the University’s Neighborhood Commitments program, a 15-year commitment headed by the Office of Engagement and Community Affairs (ECA) to collaborate with existing community organizations and invest in infrastructure, staffing and programming for community residents. The neighborhoods, along with the Hill District, include Homewood and Hazelwood.

At the groundbreaking, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher thanked ECA and the Hill District residents, organizations and community leaders involved with the project. Pitt is proud to play a role in the renovation of a historic and beloved neighborhood location, he said.

“This is one of the great cultural legacies not just of Pittsburgh, but of our country,” Gallagher said. “And they're not to be put into a box and admired from a distance. A real legacy is a foundation stone, and you build a future on that. I think that's what we're doing right here in the Hill.”

The theater has a rich history as one of the hubs for the city’s jazz scene in the 1930s and ’40s. Louis Armstrong and Lena Horne are among the jazz legends who performed there. Actor Mickey Rooney premiered a film there, and then-future President Eisenhower also campaigned at the theater.

Brent Leggs, executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and senior vice president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, called the theater “hallowed ground.”

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey’s chief of staff Jake Wheatley said this construction and renovation was long overdue and will ultimately benefit the entire city.

“The New Granada Theater has been a significant part of the community for generations, and this development will revitalize the culture here,” Wheatley said. “And when we diversify our culture, we make the city of Pittsburgh a better place.”


— ­Donovan Harrell, photography by Aimee Obidzinski