By SUSAN JONES
Demolition on the Learning Research and Development Center building and the O’Hara Garage is on schedule to begin just after commencement. The Board of Trustees Property & Facilities Committee approved the move at its Feb. 27 meeting.
The committee also approved renovations of the ground floor of the Cathedral of Learning and of the third floor of the Biomedical Science Tower 3 for the Brain Institute.
Changes on O’Hara Street
The demolition of the two buildings on O’Hara Street, which is estimated to cost $12 million, will make way for the new Recreation and Wellness Center outlined in the Campus Master Plan unveiled in late 2018.
Work will begin around May 1 on the project. Roadside parking will be eliminated on O’Hara Street and the two traffic lanes will be shifted closer to the Benedum Hall side of the street, Greg Scott, senior vice chancellor for Business and Operations, said after the committee meeting.
The parking garage will be torn down first, Scott said. The debris from the garage will be left in place at the site so equipment can sit on top of it to reach the upper levels of the LRDC building. Before the LRDC building can be torn down, remediation has to be done inside because of asbestos and lead paint, he said. The uniquely shaped building, which has a 45-degree slope on its front, opened in 1974.
People currently working in the LRDC building will move to the Murdoch Building on Forbes Avenue this summer, probably in July, Scott said. The new building opened last year.
Last summer, the Property and Facilities Committee approved leasing the fifth and sixth floors of the former Pittsburgh Athletic Association building starting in June of this year, and LRDC was slated to move into that space. In December, the Post-Gazette reported that Apple is talking to developer Walnut Capital about taking up to 90,000 square feet of the PAA building on Fifth Avenue. Scott said the University is waiting to hear from Walnut Capital about if the space is still available in the PAA.
The O’Hara Street demolition is expected to take nearly a year, finishing up in March 2021. Scott said they’ll likely be coming back to the Property and Facilities Committee next February for approval of construction on the rec center, which should start in April or May 2021 and be completed by fall 2023, Scott said.
The administration has been working with the people who currently have parking permits in the O’Hara Garage. Scott said they stopped issuing new permits over a year ago. That still leaves nearly 400 vehicles that need to be accommodated in other lots. Most will be relocated to the OC Lot above Petersen Events Center or the Soldiers and Sailors garage.
One plan to create more spaces is to “stack” vehicles in the Soldiers & Sailors Garage, where drivers could block in other vehicles and then leave their keys in their cars. Attendants would patrol the garage and move cars as needed.
The renovations on the ground floor of the Cathedral of Learning, which has already seen several classroom modernizations, will include updated bathrooms, public corridors and a new area where Cathedral Coffee is located to accommodate a Saxbys Café, which will be run by students in the company’s Experiential Learning Program.
Those renovations are set to begin in May and are expected to cost $6 million. Scott said the bathrooms on the ground floor, which will receive new fixtures, finishes, ceilings, lighting, ventilation and air conditioning systems, will be closed this summer. The project will be done in phases and will likely not be completed entirely until next spring, although the Saxbys area is set to open this fall.
Space for Alzheimer’s research
The work at BST-3 will convert office space to open labs, equipment rooms, large holding rooms, and a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) facility.
This space is being developed to accommodate outgoing Senior Vice Chancellor for Health Science Arthur Levine’s research on preventing Alzheimer’s, in conjunction with the Brain Institute.
Scott said the work will start this summer and last about six months. The estimated cost is $8 million.
After the meeting, Scott also gave updates on several other facilities-related projects ongoing or upcoming on the Pittsburgh campus.
UNIVERSITY CLUB HOTEL
Plans for a proposed hotel and conference center, to be built on the parking lot of the University Club, are moving forward, he said. The University put out a request for qualifications in the fall seeking a private developer.
Scott said Pitt has selected Graduate Hotels as its preferred partner, but there’s still much work to be done on reaching an agreement. Graduate has 35 locations in university towns that “cultivate the spirit of each community,” according to the company website.
The new building would likely be the same size or smaller than the University Club and have around 180 rooms. Scott said the University would make money from the project through a ground lease and a management agreement for revenue sharing.
While some membership-only amenities would be maintained at the University Club for faculty and staff, the new facility would be more open to the public, he said.
FOOD SERVICE CONTRACT
Sodexo’s contract as Pitt’s food service provider is up on June 30. Pitt officials have been reviewing proposals both from Sodexo and other vendors for a new contract.
Scott said the process is moving toward its conclusion. He expects to have one or two vendors selected soon that will go through a more detailed examination before the next vendor is selected. He said they are making contingency plans for a transition to a new company if Sodexo isn’t selected.
“This is a project that can’t miss the deadline,” Scott said, and he’s happy to report everything is right on track. “The contractor hasn’t hit anything that slowed them down.”
A team from Facilities Management meets with the contractor every week to see how the project is coming along. If the work is behind schedule, the contractor is obligated to work overtime to keep everything on track.
The reconstructed and re-landscaped road between Fifth and Forbes avenues is set to reopen before the fall term begins, as is the reimagined space on the Fifth Avenue side of William Pitt Union.
The third-floor renovations are almost wrapped up, Scott said, with just some finishing touches to complete. This will be good news to Year of Creativity organizers who are planning the end of the year celebration there on April 14.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 412-648-4294.
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