Chatham hopes to break ground on new campus

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Chatham University says it hopes to break ground by this summer on the first new structure on its Eden Hall campus and that eventually up to 1,500 students will pursue studies there in sustainability and other fields.

The filing of a master plan with municipal officials in Richland is the latest step in the university's effort to transform 388 acres donated to it in 2008 into a "green campus" in Pittsburgh's north suburbs.

Students will study the environment and sustainability and live in "eco-friendly" dwellings. But Chatham President Esther Barazzone told editors at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Tuesday that the school also wants to fill a wider academic and community need.

"There's not a lot of continuing education in that region. We will not only teach sustainability on that campus we will have a general education building where other degrees can be offered," she said.

The university has garnered $20 million to date in public and private support toward construction and program development at Eden Hall. Officials say a fundraising campaign will further support development. The ultimate dollar goal is still being decided.

The planing commission and board of supervisors in Richland will review the plan. It spans 20 years and includes about two dozen projects, from academic buildings and residences to a greenhouse, aquaponics facility and constructed wetlands.

Officials said they will build in phases, as program needs and other factors including the economy and fundraising allow.

"We hope to be breaking ground on the first [building] in late spring or early summer," Dr. Barazzone said.

That structure, a multipurpose classroom and meeting space called the "EcoCenter" could be finished in late 2012 or early 2013. Two residences, each housing 22 students, will follow.

Officials hope for an enrollment of 150 students within five years. Ultimately, they anticipate 1,200 of the 1,500 students will reside at Eden Hall, including some from other colleges who will immerse themselves perhaps for a semester in a setting Chatham officials say is uniquely designed for the study of sustainability.

Officials have said they want the campus to be carbon neutral, able to process waste and replace whatever energy its inhabitants use.

The Eden Hall Farm property on Ridge Road was donated to Chatham by the Eden Hall Foundation. The land is 10 times the size of Chatham's main Shadyside campus.

Chatham says Eden Hall will house the university's new School of Sustainability and the Environment. Enrollment, initially master's students, eventually will include undergraduates and doctoral students, officials said.

David Hassenzahl, dean of the School of Sustainability and the Environment, said the three foundations of sustainability -- economic development, social issues and the environment -- will be equally evident within the programs.

"We are thinking about how can we improve the environment while at the same time improving economic conditions and economic opportunity for a diverse society," he said.


Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1977.


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