Expected redevelopment of the Civic Arena lot has hastened a plan by UPMC Mercy to build a garage that consolidates employee parking near the hospital beside a proposed new central power plant.
Both constructions will sit on what is now surface parking across Marion Street from the hospital, in the block also bordered by the Boulevard of the Allies, Locust Street and Van Braam Street.
The planning commission recently approved the project, which is part of Mercy's master plan. City council approved that last month. A traffic study has yet to be approved.
Tom Gronow, Mercy's vice president of operations, said construction will start in March and last 18 to 24 months. The power plant will be LEED certified, he said.
The parking garage -- two stories along the boulevard, five stories along Locust Street -- will allow 1,218 cars and 120 bicycles.
The four-story power plant will be 60,000 square feet. Chillers, boilers and power generators are now scattered throughout the hospital campus.
"To house all that in a central location takes a building of that magnitude," Mr. Gronow said. "The most pressing issue is the chillers, which are in a sad state" and are necessary for surgery. "We will run greater energy efficiency by consolidating everything."
The hospital's laboratory will also be housed in the power plant.
Sidewalks on the boulevard will be widened for new street trees. Trees and other landscaping will ring the block.
"We will increase green space by 3.6 percent over the next 10 years," Mr. Gronow said. That will include a public park on a vacant half-acre on Edna Street -- an alley that intersects with Van Braam.
The buildings will divert some stormwater for use in the plant, and permeable pavers will replace part of the surface lot on Marion, Mr. Gronow said.
Hospital administrators and architects met for a year with Uptown stakeholders, including Uptown Partners and its design review team, to craft a plan compatible with neighborhood interests.
Jeanne McNutt, executive director of Uptown Partners, said it was "a great process of many meetings" and a lot of give and take.
Hospital administrators revised a proposal to build the power plant at Edna and Van Braam, which is mostly residential. They also agreed not to demolish the historic St. Ann's building and not to close Marion Street for exclusive use by emergency vehicles.
"Uptown [Partners] was on board with it," Mr. Gronow said, "but Duquesne [University] said, 'Look, we have a couple times during the year when students are moving in and we need Marion' " as a relief valve to ease traffic backup on the boulevard. "As part of the 25-year plan, we will have a bridge over Marion" for emergency vehicles.
The city requires a 10- and a 25-year plan of institutions planning large projects. The parking garage was originally in the 25-year plan, he said, "but with demolition of the arena, things have been accelerating."
Since surface parking is opposed in the neighborhood's own plan, he said, "it made sense for us to look at structured parking."
The existing garage will be for patients and physicians.
The design calls for traffic signals to be retimed, new signs for pedestrians, sidewalk improvements and reconstruction of handicap ramps.
Ms. McNutt said the last concerns of the review team are that the buildings would be "fortresslike" without greening features, neighborhood-friendly lighting and public art.
"The general consensus is that this is a great opportunity for the community to work with the hospital to create not just more green space but a unique park with some character" in the lot on Edna Street, he said. "All this would add vibrancy at the street level and soften the massive addition to the neighborhood."