Murtha Center proposal for University of Pittsburgh Johnstown campus pared back

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A center named for the late Pennsylvania congressman John Murtha -- albeit a smaller one -- is being planned for the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown campus, state and university officials said.

Officials say they expect what is now being called the John P. Murtha Center for Public Service and National Competitiveness, currently in the design stage, will be ready as soon as October 2015.

Initially, plans called for a 30,000-square-foot center to be housed in a separate building that would include classrooms, meeting space, museum space, archival space, administrative offices and both a memorial garden and public parking.

That facility -- costing $18.6 million -- was initially called the John P. Murtha Center for Public Service and was to be accompanied by $9.9 million in other campus construction and infrastructure projects.

Money earmarked for the work in total included a $10 million state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant authorized by the Rendell administration in 2010, federal matching funds as well as other sources including fundraising by the Murtha Foundation, Pitt spokesman Ken Service said.

He said work commenced as planned on the other campus projects. But funding for the center itself did come together fully.

"The simple answer was the federal funding that was going to be part of the project never materialized," Mr. Service said.

So, the plan now calls for placing the center inside an 8,000-square-foot addition to Krebs Hall that includes multipurpose space, museum space and administrative offices. Renovation of labs and teaching spaces is also planned.

The Murtha Foundation has been raising money for the facility since Murtha's death in 2010. He said Pitt will provide matching funds for the Krebs expansion.

Mr. Murtha, a Democrat who represented Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District, was a Pitt Johnstown alumnus.

According to the Pitt-published University Times, family of the late congressman chose his alma mater as repository for his papers and memorabilia.

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Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @BschacknerPG.


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