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February 6, 2003

City Planning approves BST3 plan

The Pittsburgh City Planning commission gave Pitt the okay last week to construct the Biomedical Science Tower 3 (BST3), officials said.

The $188 million project, approved by Pitt’s Board of Trustees last October, had been delayed by the City Planning commission at a Jan. 14 meeting, when commissioners wanted to study further the project’s parking implications, according to Director of City Planning Susan Golomb.

“We had department staff look at the parking situation there,” Golomb said, referring to the construction site at Fifth Avenue between Lothrop and Darragh streets, the site of the razed Lhormer Building. “The University said that [BST3] would house 500 researchers and scientists, and some commissioners wanted to see if parking would be adequate in the area.”

Golomb said the internal City Planning review eased the concerns of the commissioners, who gave their final approval Jan. 28.

“There will be 100 specified spaces in the Victoria Building garage for [BST3 tenants], and overall, of the 500 occupants only about 200 or 250 will be new to Oakland,” Golomb said. She added that the UPMC plan to move Children’s Hospital to the former St. Francis Hospital location in Lawrenceville would alleviate traffic congestion and free up more parking in existing garages over the next few years.

BST3 will be a 10-story limestone and glass building housing about 50 research groups in about 330,000 gross square feet of space. Pitt’s plan includes constructing connecting pedestrian 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 information provided by the Board of Trustees property and facilities committee, which authorized the project.

According to Ana Guzman, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management, the delay is a small bump in the road. “The two-week delay did not have any impact on the overall project schedule or budget for the building,” Guzman said. “We plan to start mobilizing for construction in early spring of this year, have partial occupancy of the building (lower floors) in the spring of 2005 and completion of construction in December of 2005.”

Guzman acknowledged that staging issues for the BST3 construction still need to be ironed out and submitted for City Planning department staff approval. “We may also, for example, discuss with [the Port Authority] about moving the bus stop in that area during the construction to help our staging,” she said.

Planning department staff member Bob Reppe said the University still must submit: detailed building drawings and a description of all materials; a construction management plan, which includes proposed truck routes for the delivery of materials, where the construction trailers will park and the workers’ hours of operation; a landscape plan, and a signage proposal for the post-construction site. “These are all typical conditions the department puts on construction projects for the staff to review,” Reppe said.

“We don’t normally require submitting a construction management plan at the time of the commission’s approval of the project,” City Planning Director Golomb said, “but the University will have to come back to [department staff] with that when those details are worked out.”

The BST3 project does not require Pittsburgh City Council approval, Golomb said, because it was approved by council as part of the University’s revised master plan.

—Peter Hart

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