A rendering of the Pop District Entertainment Venue courtesy of Desmone Architects.

A vacant lot near The Andy Warhol Museum is set to “pop” as the North Shore’s newest entertainment venue.

During its regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 31, the Pittsburgh Planning Commission approved a 57,766-square-foot Pop District Entertainment Venue designed by Pittsburgh-based firm Desmone Architects.

Desmone President Eric Booth says the venue will occupy the entire space of what is currently a parking lot owned by Alco Parking at the corner of East General Robinson and Sandusky streets, catty-corner from The Andy Warhol Museum. The lot and neighboring George L. Wilson & Co. building are separated by Arbuckle Way.

When complete, the venue will feature a flexible performance venue and lobby space across the first two floors, office space on the third floor and a 360-person capacity event center on the fourth floor. The event space also boasts a balcony looking out toward the Warhol Museum and Downtown.

After the meeting, Warhol Museum Associate Director Dan Law said the project is expected to break ground in the spring of 2024 and open its doors in early 2026. The entirety of the project — from design to construction — is expected to cost approximately $45 million, though Law noted that both the timeline and cost are not set in stone.

In the meeting, Booth said the venue was meant to transcend any particular style or point in time as Warhol’s artwork did — “something that goes beyond the tired and ridiculous aesthetic of Pittsburgh chic with warehouse brick and exposed steel structure and metal siding that we see everywhere. Something that is of Pittsburgh, but also not — much like Warhol himself.

Desmone Architects took design inspiration from Andy Warhol’s work “A Bird.” The performance space inside the venue will be lit up and visible from the exterior, reminiscent of the bird. Image courtesy of Desmone Architects.

“While the museum honors the past, the venue celebrates the future, and the present is the thread that connects the two.”

Desmone took inspiration from the understated elegance of the Warhol Museum’s exterior and Warhol’s bird-in-a-cage paintings, Booth said. 

The performance venue stands as an independent structure within the building. Lights pointed at its white exterior walls will give the impression that the theater is a red bird trapped in a cage of windows.

Law said the venue “is part of a larger programmatic and physical expansion of The Andy Warhol Museum known as the Pop District.” 

The Pop District program seeks to turn the area around the museum into a creative, cultural and tourist destination. The entertainment venue is the first expansion past Sandusky Street.

Commissioner Peter Quintanilla expressed concern about the execution of the bird-in-a-cage aesthetic. Similarly, Commissioner Sabina Deitrick posited that the exterior wall along Arbuckle Way, which may be increasingly visible if the area develops further, might be too drab.

A photo of the North Shore edited to emphasize the Pop District with blue lot 7j — the future home of the Pop District Entertainment Venue — included. Photo courtesy of Desmone Architects.

The commission ultimately voted in favor of the application — with three in favor, none opposed and one abstention from Quintanilla.

The approval comes with the addendums that an alternative landscape compliance agreement for the tree diameter and final construction plans be reviewed and approved by the zoning administrator before final zoning approval.

Roman wants to hear the stories created in Pittsburgh. When not reporting, he plays difficult video games that make him upset and attempts to make delicious meals out of mismatched leftovers.