Pittsburgh’s City Planning Commission approved plans that date back to 2020 to demolish an East Liberty bank to make room for a new one. 

The existing building was constructed in 1969 and 1970, originally housing a Mellon Bank Branch. For the last three years, the current owners, Citizens Bank, have sought  approval to demolish the current building in favor of new construction. Tuesday, on the bank’s third application attempt, the commissioners voted unanimously to approve the plans. 

“We encountered significant hurdles including questions of historic designation,” said Mark Knipper, Citizens Bank’s executive vice president for property and procurement, referring to a Pittsburgh City Council vote in 2021 rejecting historic designation for the current bank building on 6112 Penn Avenue. The commission had recommended the designation.

“Over the years we made numerous changes including modernizing the design,” Knipper said. 

In the bank’s previous attempt, the commissioners rejected the plans in October over traffic concerns and curb cuts. The original application was rejected because the commissioners concluded the design did not fit the design of buildings in the area.

But all of those issues appeared to be sufficiently addressed in Tuesday’s presentation, which included plans to salvage the granite in the current building for use in the new construction. Citizens Bank’s presenters also noted that the design will use neutral tan and beige bricks that are commonly seen in the other buildings in the neighborhood. 

The updated design has a “parklet” and the parking lot provides room for armored vehicles transporting cash to and from the bank so that deliveries will not block sections of Penn Avenue. The parking lot will also allow right turns only for exiting vehicles. 

An artist's rendering of a planned new Citizens Bank branch set for the East Liberty site long occupied by a former Mellon Bank building, submitted to the City Planning Commission for a Feb. 21, 2023 meeting.
An artist’s rendering of a planned new Citizens Bank branch set for the East Liberty site long occupied by a former Mellon Bank building, submitted to the City Planning Commission for a Feb. 21, 2023 meeting.

Presenters noted several times that the commissioners approved plans earlier this month for construction of a Chase Bank at 6100 Penn Avenue. In their presentation they showed how similar the two proposed buildings are in height and aesthetics.

There were no voices of disagreement during the public hearing portion of the meeting. Shawn Carter, special assistant to city Councilman Ricky Burgess, said that Burgess “supports Citizens Bank’s efforts to put a better-looking building at that site.” 

Commissioner Rachel O’Neill encouraged the bank to coordinate with the city government to maintain the parklet.

Commissioner Lashawn Burton-Faulk said she appreciated “the nod to the previous structure and little parklet area. It’s a creative use of the former building. I also appreciate the format of this presentation, showing the different iterations. It’s a reminder of how we got from there to here.”

Eric Jankiewicz is PublicSource’s economic development reporter, and can be reached at ericj@publicsource.org or on Twitter @ericjankiewicz.

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Eric Jankiewicz is a reporter focused on housing and economic development for PublicSource. A native New Yorker, Eric moved to Pittsburgh in 2017 and has since fallen in love with his adopted city, even...