After two years of anticipation and two nights of hearings, Robert Morris University president Gregory G. Dell'Omo breathed a sigh of relief and smiled on Monday night after Moon supervisors approved a zoning change that will permit the conversion of the former Holiday Inn Pittsburgh International Airport into Yorktown Hall, a dormitory.
"We're very excited about the outcome and that it was a thoroughly exhaustive process," Mr. Dell'Omo said. The vote was 4-0 with Supervisor John Hertzer voting via speakerphone because he had back surgery. Supervisor Frank Sinatra was absent.
The property is now in a mixed-use educational overlay district, so converting the former hotel into a dormitory is an approved use. Supervisors approved a zoning change for the property and a conditional use application.
In 2011, Robert Morris purchased the hotel at a sheriff's sale for about $10.2 million, according to the Allegheny County Office of Property Assessments website. They began using it to house some students and continued to operate the hotel with the Prospera Management Co. managing the property until July 17.
Mr. Dell'Omo said some employees were able to get jobs at other hotels. The sign at the entrance was removed earlier this week and the building no longer is a public facility. It's open only to RMU students, faculty, employees and guests.
He said 502 students will reside at Yorktown Hall. The university will continue to renovate the building, and the former nightclub known as the Yellow Submarine would become a cafeteria for students. The restaurant known as Bridges and the bar adjacent to it will be a makeshift eating area for the students.
Mr. Dell'Omo said that future for the indoor pool is uncertain. The conference rooms and banquet rooms will be used as student meeting spaces.
During the public comment portion of Monday's meeting, resident Joseph D'Andrea said Robert Morris students, faculty and employees are shopping in supermarkets, eating in restaurants and working in the township. He said the university is an incubator for a thinking and learning future. He urged approval of the rezoning requested because it will benefit the township.
The university agreed to pay the township $230,000 over the next three years, which solicitor Tim Bish said is the equivalent of Holiday Inn property taxes over the next 10 years. The payments would be $100,000 in each of the first two years and $30,000 in the final year.
He said the money would be used to improve the traffic signal at University Boulevard and Campus Drive at the university's entrance. University officials agreed to pay additional fees that may be incurred once the traffic study is complete and the upgrades to the traffic signal begin.
The agreement also states that if the traffic study and the improvements are less than the $230,000, the township can keep and use the remaining money.
The township wanted the university to install sidewalks along University Boulevard but Lafe Metz, an attorney with Buchanan Ingersol & Rooney PC who is representing the university, said it is not fair to ask the university to put sidewalks on property it does not own.
Supervisor James Vitale said Wal-Mart has agreed to put sidewalks on its property at the former West Hills Shopping Center.
"We are not Harvard University. We are a modest university. We need to balance an enormous host of concerns with limited means," Mr. Metz told supervisors.
Addressing the safety issue of students walking between campus and Yorktown Hall, Mr. Metz said the university is paying more than $300,000 a year to have shuttles running 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Robert Morris officials agreed to have sidewalks installed in front of Yorktown Hall and to have an intersection traffic study of University Boulevard completed within six months.
Moon engineers have done the preliminary designs for sidewalk construction at the main campus entrance up to the Beaver Grade Road Intersection. The university has also agreed to pay the review fees, solicitor and processing fees.
Kim Lawrence, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.