Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

January 9, 2003

Long-range facilities plan ahead of schedule

With Sennott Square and the Petersen Events Center, Pitt’s newest buildings, up and running, what’s next on the University’s facilities agenda?

That was the question broached by the University Senate’s plant utilization and planning (PUP) committee at a meeting last month.

Robert Pack, vice provost for academic planning and resources management, reported to the committee on the University’s plans, which, he said, continue to be driven by the 10-year (1998-2007) master facilities plan developed at the request of the Board of Trustees.

“I think it’s fair to say that the facilities plan, for both content and timing, is the single most important and influential document for the University in certainly the last decade,” Pack told the PUP committee.

“Over the whole 10-year plan we had projected $516 million worth of projects over three phases, short-, mid- and long-term.” Short-term (1-4 years) estimates, targeting the highest priority projects, totaled $197 million at the time of the plan’s release, he said.

More generous than anticipated funding from the commonwealth and favorable financial markets allowed Pitt to move up some longer term projects. “In fact, in the first five years we spent about $317 million, leaving us about $198 million at this point. The single greatest impact on the plan was the increase in commonwealth funding from a projected $69 million to $135 million. In effect, we were essentially able to accelerate our spending in priority areas,” he said, including:

• Constructing Sennott Square and the Petersen Events Center;

• Renovating the Masonic Temple (now Alumni Hall);

• Procuring storage space for the overcrowded Hillman Library;

• Building Bouquet Gardens for student housing and renovating University-owned apartment buildings for undergraduate housing;

• Providing recreational facilities in the residence halls, and

• Improving instructional facilities, with classroom renovations and technology upgrades.

Pack said the next projects on the facilities docket are construction of the Biomedical Science Tower 3 on Fifth Avenue, and Clapp-Langley-Crawford halls expansion designed to provide additional space for biological sciences research and facilities.

“These are our two main capital projects that are approved, but without a final timetable,” Pack said. “The commonwealth is the source of funds, and they are included in the last bill approved by the legislature. Pitt is waiting for the funding to be released by the governor’s office.”

Ongoing renovation projects include:

• Trees Hall renovation, including a new roof and HVAC system and the reopening of a long-dormant rifle range, as well as the construction of a climbing wall. “This is part of the whole recreation improvement that really is triggered by the move of athletics programs into the Petersen Events Center.”

• The transfer of books to the Lexington Avenue storage facility. “Over the next year, you’ll see a big improvement at Hillman in terms of the density in the building: more reading space, and more appropriate space for collections,” Pack said.

Plans also call for studying the feasibility of more on-campus student housing, Pack said. “We picked up some land — that open space outside the Petersen Events Center and where the Mineral Industries Building and Pennsylvania Hall were — and we’d like to find a way so there’s not just nothing between the chemistry building and Sutherland Hall,” Pack said.

He said part of Pitt’s philosophy is to “capture space in existing buildings. The McCarl Center on the Cathedral’s 4th floor, for example, took storage space and made a beautiful student center,” he said.

“Typically, the capital budget suffers at the hands of the operating budget, and that’s why you get into problems with deferred maintenance. We determined we would avoid that by providing prescribed levels of funding coming off the top of the capital budget,” some $8.9 million a year beginning in FY 2002. “We want to keep our existing buildings functioning as efficiently as they can while meeting the programs’ needs, rather than investing in shiny new facilities,” Pack said.

The guiding principles in the 10-year facilities plan are still in effect, he said. They are:

• Academic priorities guide capital development.

• Utilize existing space more efficiently.

• Preservation should precede construction.

• Continue to improve instructional facilities.

• Continue to upgrade student life. “What we think of as student amenities really needed substantial upgrading if we were going to attract and retain the caliber of undergrad student we wanted to admit.”

• Restrict rental properties to housing externally funded projects.

• Limit property acquisition to where the University has a clear need.

“I think it’s fair to say that now the campus is significantly more attractive than five or six years ago,” Pack said. “There’s more of a sense of campus than there was. When we built the [Bouquet Gardens] student housing, it changed the student pedestrian patterns. Many more are coming through the space between Posvar Hall and Hillman. So we have an opportunity to turn more of our urban space into pedestrian-friendly space.”

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 35 Issue 9

Leave a Reply