Robert Morris wants to turn hotel into dormitory

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Robert Morris University is seeking a zoning amendment that would allow it to convert the Holiday Inn Pittsburgh International Airport into a dormitory for upperclassmen.

The university owns the Holiday Inn and operates it as a hotel with students living in some of the rooms.

A hearing on the zoning change will be held at 7 p.m. July 1 in the Moon municipal building, 1000 Beaver Grade Road.

Lafe Metz, the university's attorney, and Dan Kiener, its senior vice president of business affairs, answered questions from Moon supervisors June 5 about the proposed conversion of the hotel on University Boulevard into a dorm, which is not a permitted use in the University Boulevard Overlay District.

Robert Morris is proposing the creation of a Mixed-Use Education Overlay District that would allow students to be housed at the hotel.

The university purchased the property in December 2011 at a sheriff's sale.

Mr. Metz said Robert Morris would like to preserve the commercial nature of the property and focus growth on its campus, which is less than a mile away.

Mr. Kiener said in the interest of pedestrian and student safety, the university provides shuttle service between the campus and the Holiday Inn every 15 minutes to a half an hour around the clock. He said that students living at the Holiday Inn would not be driving to campus.

A maximum of 475 students would live in the hotel, he said in response to a question from Supervisor Marv Eicher.

Mr. Eicher said that with a Walmart proposed on the former West Hills Shopping Center site, the increase in traffic could cause congestion on University Boulevard, which he said is not a pedestrian friendly road.

He also said the university's purchase of two parcels off Grant Drive and the Holiday Inn has an impact on tax revenues for the township.

Mr. Kiener noted that the university purchased property in Neville for the Robert Morris Island Sports Center and negotiated an agreement with the township and Cornell School District.

"We want to be a good neighbor, but we take our nonprofit status seriously," he said, noting that the university pays money to those entities in lieu of taxes.

Mr. Metz said any plans for a voluntary contribution agreement with Moon and the Moon Area School District has been put on hold until the zoning issue has been resolved.

Mr. Eicher said he found it disappointing that the Holiday Inn will no longer operate as a hotel. He said he thought the university would keep the banquet facilities and conference rooms open.

Mr. Metz said that hotel workers have received a letter from their employer, Prospera Hospitality, saying they would be permanently laid off and offering them an opportunity to transfer to another Prospera property. He said the university has a franchise agreement with Holiday Inn that will allow the hotel to be converted into a dormitory.

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Kim Lawrence, freelance writer:


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