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March 16, 1995

Planning Commission expected to delay vote on Pitt's master plan

It appears unlikely that the Pittsburgh City Planning Commission will act on Pitt's master space plan this month as expected.

At the Planning Com-mission's last meeting on the master space plan Jan. 24, commission Chairperson Thomas Armstrong had expressed hopes of voting on the plan in either late February or early March. Now, though, it appears unlikely that action on the master plan will be taken by the Planning Commission at its next meeting on the plan March 21.

Jay Roling, of the Office of Commonwealth Relations, told Senate Council's plant utilization and planning committee (PUP) at its March 13 meeting that the Planning Commission apparently wants another hearing on the master space plan. Roling said that the Planning Commission wants more information on the housing, transportation, and the athletics and physical activities facilities portion of the master space plan.

"The talk is now about a hearing on the 21st," Roling said. "Whether or not anything will be done I can't speculate." One rumor that has been circulating, however, claims that the Planning Commission wants to remove the convocation center from the master space plan. Roling said he has heard the rumor, but doesn't think it will happen.

"You can't put too much in rumors," he told PUP. "But that's been out there on the sidewalk more than once." If the Planning Commission were to order the removal of the convocation center from the master space plan, it would destroy the athletics and physical activities facilities part of the plan.

"Without that [the convocation center], it would be useless," said John Bolvin, co-chair of the committee that developed the athletics and physical activities facilities portion of the master space plan.

The convocation center is critical to the athletics and physical activities part of the plan because it will house both the men's and the women's basketball programs, according to Bolvin, and so allow the use of space in the Fitzgerald Field House and Trees Hall for other physical and athletic activities.

The master plan must be approved by the Planning Commission before the University can undertake any of the projects in it. Each building project also must be approved by the commission before construction on it can start.

In other business:

* Associate Vice Chancellor for Business John DeVitto told PUP that approximately 16 people have requested information on the development of proposals for the construction of a dormitory on the Pitt Tavern site.

DeVitto said he expects to begin receiving proposals on the project within 45 days.

In the master space plan draft approved by the University's Board of Trustees in October, the Pitt Tavern site on Fifth Avenue between Oakland Avenue and Bouquet Street was mentioned as the possible location for a suites hotel and conference center. The focus for student housing projects in the plan was the hilltop and hillside areas.

When asked by PUP member Tom Anderson why the administration had decided to build a dormitory on the Pitt Tavern site instead of on the hilltop, DeVitto said "because it was easier to do than up on the hill as far as structure." About possibly using the Pitt Tavern site for a suites hotel and conference center, DeVitto told PUP that the site is not large enough to make such a project economically feasible.

"I verified that with a consultant at Interstate Hotels," said DeVitto. "They do work all over the country, and they said they would not put it there."

* A progress report on the College of Business Administration by Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Management Thomas Hussey was postponed pending further review of the preferred site, the South Bouquet Street parking lot across from the Katz Graduate School of Business.

Hussey said a layer of rock encountered during core sampling work on the site has necessitated design changes in the project. He added, however, that the site has been found suitable for a building of approximately 100,000 square feet that would be low enough to fit in with the residential design of the area.

* PUP learned from Department of Transportation and Parking Director Bob Harkins that the city has approved conducting traffic-count studies at Schenley Plaza between Hillman Library and The Carnegie, and at the Tower View parking lot near the Veterans Administration Hospital.

The purpose of the studies is to help determine the best site for a new parking garage.

–Mike Sajna

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