Children's Hospital final steel beams placed, as ex-CEO looks on

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Robin Rombach, Post-Gazette
Cancer patient Mallory Oross, 6, of West Mifflin, holds her doll, Alyssa, yesterday at the construction site of the new Children's Hospital.
Click photo for larger image.

The man who's bankrolling the new Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville -- Jeffrey Romoff, president of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center -- couldn't make it, but a sometimes antagonist who also played a crucial role in the development did.

Ronald L. Violi, the former chief executive officer of Children's, was among the faces in the crowd gathered to watch the placement of the final steel beams in an event commemorating construction progress at the hospital.

Mr. Violi lost his job following an unusually public dispute with UPMC in 2004 over the size, scope and cost of the new pediatric hospital. The dispute slowed construction for months, but ended with an increase in the budget for the facility -- and an announcement that Mr. Violi would step down as the hospital's CEO.

"If that's what it took to get it done, that's fine," Mr. Violi said yesterday. "It was worth the wait, and it was worth the wars."

Mr. Romoff was out of the country on a long-planned vacation, a spokesman said.

While Mr. Violi was not among the speakers at yesterday's event, Roger Oxendale, the current chief executive officer at Children's, thanked Mr. Romoff and UPMC for their support of the building project, which carries a $575 million price tag.

Construction of the 900,000-square-foot hospital should be completed by the end of 2008, Mr Oxendale said. Because the hospital is particularly busy during the winter months, however, the actual move to the new 262-bed facility might not take place until April or May 2009, he added.

A 10-story, 230,000-square-foot research building, which also will be housed on the Lawrenceville campus, should be complete by summer 2008.

The surrounding Lawrenceville neighborhood already is reaping economic benefits from the upcoming relocation of the hospital from Oakland, Mr. Oxendale said. Real estate prices were up 70 percent in the neighborhood between 2001 and 2003, he said, and new businesses already have opened in advance of the hospital opening.

Robin Rombach, Post-Gazette
Paula Przybilinski, a carpenter with P.J. Dick, signs the last beam to top off the new Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville yesterday.
Click photo for larger image.

Christopher Snowbeck can be reached at csnowbeck@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2625.


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