Pitt outlines plans for capital expansion

Physics, astronomy labs get $28 million in improvements

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The University of Pittsburgh's high-priority nanoscience and technology research initiative is expected to benefit from a school trustees' decision Tuesday to okay $28.2 million in expansion and renovation of physics and astronomy department laboratories.

What Pitt is calling its "Mid-campus Complex Renovations, Phase 2," will encompass 13 new or renovated labs, mainly located in Allen Hall, Old Engineering Hall and the Nuclear Physics Laboratory, Pitt said in a statement.

The work is the biggest among several building and renovation projects collectively worth $46 million, all authorized by the trustees' property and facilities committee at a midday meeting.

The varied work planned on Pitt's Oakland, Bradford and Greensburg campuses is intended to enhance research, classroom activities and student life. Included is $2.8 million for site and utility work related to a 150-bed to 200-bed apartment building adjacent to Bouquet Gardens, part of a continuing university effort that will eventually increase campus housing capacity to almost 8,000 beds.

During the meeting, Pitt Executive Vice Chancellor Jerome Cochran touted the nearly 400 construction and construction-support jobs the trustees were creating by their votes. Interviewed afterward, he said the additional beds will help keep pace with rising demand for Pitt-maintained housing, and in the process, address ongoing complaints that some students vying for off-campus rentals end up in substandard housing.

"It gives students a place to live that isn't -- I guess I can't say certain words -- they don't have to rely on slum landlord properties," he said. "They can have high-quality university-built and maintained space."

The mid-campus project, expected to be finished in two years, will provide better laboratory facilities for eight existing faculty and three newly created positions, plus facility improvements for two other experimental research groups, Pitt said.

The mid-campus project is being aided by $15 million in federal economic stimulus money. That infusion quickened the project's pace "probably by a year," Mr. Cochran said.

The beds near Bouquet Gardens, expected to be ready for occupancy in August 2011, aren't the only additions to housing planned. The trustees also approved nearly $1.6 million to turn Lothrop Hall office space into beds for 47 undergraduates, and after the meeting, Mr. Cochran said the school further envisions a 500-bed facility in the coming years and is considering lower campus sites including Pitt-owned land across Fifth Avenue from Litchfield Towers.

Among the other projects authorized yesterday:

• A $5.9 million upgrade to chemistry and biology laboratories in Fisher Hall at Pitt Bradford;

• A $2 million ninth-floor renovation in the William Pitt Union, yielding a new study area/lounge and offices for staff involved in student life.

• A 1.9 million greenhouse project in Langley Hall to support an increase in students involved in botany studies

• The initial $2 million phase of an infrastructure upgrade in Smith Hall at Pitt Greensburg.

The trustees also approved three leases, including one that will enable school of medicine programs to be located in the John G. Rangos Research Center in Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. The 20-year lease will be for $12.4 million a year, once the 143,742 square feet are completely occupied.

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


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