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October 10, 2002

UPMC alters Oakland plans but construction of Pitt biomedical science tower moving ahead

In June 2001, UPMC Health System and Pitt announced a seven-year, $600 million Oakland medical campus renewal project with much fanfare. The plans included construction of three major new facilities, two by UPMC and one by Pitt.

UPMC’s plans have been altered radically as the result of an August deal to purchase St. Francis Hospital in Lawrenceville and move Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh to that site. The agreement also calls for construction of a new pediatric research facility on the St. Francis site.

While the new agreement cancels UPMC’s plans to construct an inpatient facility and a child and ambulatory care center near UPMC Montefiore, Pitt is continuing with its portion of the original project.

A new Biomedical Science Tower 3 (BST3) will be built on the site of the Lhormer Building on Fifth Avenue between Lothrop and Darragh streets.

The property and facilities committee of Pitt’s Board of Trustees this week approved the $188 million construction project, which is expected to be completed in 2006 or 2007. The project could begin by the end of 2002 with the clearing of the Lhormer Building site.

BST3 will be a 10-story (plus basement) building, housing some 50 research groups in about 325,000 gross square feet of space, according to information distributed by the trustees committee, which is authorized to approve Pitt construction projects over $1 million. The new building will help alleviate overcrowded lab space, and better position the University to capitalize on research funding to further biotechnology-based economic development in the region, according to the trustees’ background statement.

The plan includes constructing connecting bridges from BST3 to Victoria Hall and to the Biomedical Science Tower.

Funding sources for the BST3 include: $62 million in gift funds; $80 million in debt financing; $45.4 million in University funds, and $629,000 in commonwealth funds, according to background information.

According to Ana Guzman, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management, Pitt will develop a staging plan for constructing the new bioscience tower once a deal is finalized with a construction management firm. The staging plan then requires city approval, she said.

“It is expected that now that the Children’s construction plans have changed, it will be easier to stage the construction of this project,” Guzman said. “We expect to break ground in March of 2003.”

Pitt is close to signing an agreement with Mascaro/Hunt, a local construction management firm, for the BST3 project, according to Pitt spokesperson Robert Hill.

As for UPMC’s revised plans, Jane Duffield, UPMC Health System spokesperson, said: “We don’t anticipate the new Children’s in Lawrenceville, which will include a pediatric research facility addition to the existing St. Francis facility, to be ready until 2007. But some decisions have been made for the short term.”

Duffield said Children’s Hospital in Oakland will remain operational until the opening of the Lawrenceville facility.

After the new Children’s opens in Lawrenceville, the current Children’s in Oakland will be renovated and used by UPMC Presbyterian to handle patient overflow.

Duffield added that the sites originally scheduled for construction north and south of UPMC Montefiore will be converted into landscaped green space.

Clean-up efforts, prior to the landscaping, have begun in the area of Terrace Street and Chesterfield Road, where some houses had been demolished by UPMC under the now-outdated plan. Green space also will be created at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Chesterfield, which was to be the site of a new child and adult ambulatory care center prior to the UPMC agreement with St. Francis.

It’s premature to determine what the long-term use of those spaces will be, Duffield said.

Other plans now abandoned as a result of the St. Francis agreement include a second helipad (the one on top of UPMC Presbyterian will continue in operation) and a pedestrian tunnel under Fifth Avenue. The tunnel was to connect the proposed ambulatory care center to a proposed underground parking garage in the 3400 block of Fifth. “There’s no need for the tunnel now,” Duffield said.

A consequence of the new plans, Duffield added, will be much less traffic congestion in the Fifth Avenue corridor of the medical campus. “To put in the landscaped areas is much less intrusive than major construction,” she said.

According to a UPMC press release announcing the Children’s/St. Francis agreement, UPMC Health System is investing $270 million in a complicated deal that includes a $250 million investment by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.

The majority of the UPMC investment is going to the construction on the Lawrenceville St. Francis site, with some money being used to acquire St. Francis Cranberry and to purchase St. Francis Health System’s interest in the Community Care Behavioral Health organization.

Highmark is providing $233 million to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh to purchase the Lawrenceville site and toward construction there. Highmark is putting up an additional $17 million to Jameson Health System for the acquisition of the St. Francis Hospital of New Castle.

Part of the deal includes a 10-year contract between Highmark and UPMC Health System providing Highmark’s members with access to UPMC facilities and physicians, the Aug. 19 press release said.

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 35 Issue 4

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