Pitt plans $1 billion project to modernize buildings, add facilities

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The University of Pittsburgh plans to spend more than $1 billion on construction over the next 12 years, largely to bring buildings up to date but also for additions and new athletic facilities.

The university yesterday released a 12-year facilities plan for projects in various stages.


Graphic: Pitt's 12-year plan


The plan "will enable us to retain the momentum we have developed in the last decade and ensure that we remain one of the most successful and competitive universities in the country," said Robert Pack, vice provost for academic planning and resources management.

The largest new construction is $45 million for what is called the Salk Hall addition, but it will be a large building in its own right, immediately behind Salk Hall. It will have research laboratories for the pharmacy and health sciences schools.

Three smaller additions, also on the Oakland campus, are for Falk School, $13.6 million; Frick Fine Arts, $3.4 million; and the music building, $3.4 million. The Falk figure includes renovations.

The 12-year plan through 2018 also includes $34.3 million in athletic improvements, including nearly $22.9 million in new facilities.

A large portion of the athletic department construction will take place at the site of the former Allequippa Terrace public housing project. Pitt plans to build a soccer complex, track/intramural complex, softball field, marching band facility and baseball complex.

The athletic department also plans on spending $11.4 million to renovate Fitzgerald Field House, Trees Hall and the Cost Sports Center and put a diving well into Trees Pool.

The soccer, baseball, track and softball facilities are in the first four-year phase of the plan. Donations are being sought for the diving well and marching band facility.

"We are very pleased that athletics is part of this master plan because, in a lot of other universities, athletics has been sort of left to fend on its own," Pitt Athletic Director Jeff Long said.

Pitt baseball coach Joe Jordano said, "This provides an instant adrenaline boost for Pitt baseball and all of our intercollegiate sports.

"It is going to take us to a whole new level. We are excited and appreciative that athletics is part of the university's grand plan to make Pitt an even more incredible place to receive your education."

Mr. Long confirmed that the new track and field facility would occupy the space currently occupied by the baseball field and the new baseball and softball fields would be constructed on the recently acquired land.

He sees the plans as far enough along to use them as a tool to recruit athletes.

He said recruiters have not been mentioning the plans to athletes because of an uncertain timetable. "Now, though, it would definitely be fair for a coach to tell a student-athlete they are recruiting that they will play at one of the new facilities during their time at the University of Pittsburgh."

On the other campuses, new residence halls are planned at Bradford, Greensburg and Johnstown. Bradford is just breaking ground on its residence hall.

One major focus of the Pitt plan is science facilities.

Dr. Pack said the university has a "very aggressive" presence in funded science research but needs better facilities.

He said that the engineering building, Benedum Hall, which was built in 1971 and is slated for $52 million of renovation, needs to be modernized -- from electrical systems to ventilation -- to support today's research.

Dr. Pack said the improvements at the Benedum and the connected Parran and Crabtree buildings -- which serve the Graduate School of Public Health -- are the farthest along.

"The kind of research that people do changes all the time," said Dr. Pack. "The latest thing for us here is the big emphasis on nanotechnology. This requires a lot of specialized facilities in terms of very clean environments where there is no dust or anything. You need vibration-free work areas. For a lot of the work now, the electrical requirements are very extensive."

Dr. Pack believes the renovations will enable the university to use space more efficiently. A news release noted that renovation is considerably cheaper than new construction.

Education writer Eleanor Chute can be reached at echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955. Colin Dunlap can be reached at cdunlap@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1459.


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