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April 1, 2010

Former Children’s site going green, both now and later


Artist's rendering of new green space that temporarily will replace the DeSoto wing of the old Children's Hospital building.

Plans to level the former Children’s Hospital’s DeSoto wing will leave Oakland with some new green space, at least temporarily.

UPMC intends to tear down the structure, which faces Fifth Avenue and extends along DeSoto Street across from Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, this season. The taller main hospital tower will stay standing for the time being.

Replacing the DeSoto wing will be an expansive lawn with trees lining the perimeter. The bus stop on the Fifth Avenue side of the property will be expanded and additional seating installed.

UPMC planners told members of the Oakland Business Improvement District last week that the hospital tower and the green space eventually will be replaced by a new building for which UPMC intends to pursue LEED certification.

Before that can happen, however, current occupants of the main tower will need to be relocated over the next several years. Offices will be moved, radiology services will be consolidated into UPMC Presbyterian, clinical labs in the tower will be moved to the Rangos Building and the heliport will be relocated to the UPMC Presbyterian rooftop, said Denise Rafferty, director of planning, design and construction for UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside.

“We expect this green space to remain as is perhaps for three to four years or so. … Eventually we’d like to do a larger project, take down the main tower as well — but we have to move programs that are in there — and then construct a new bed tower for Presbyterian,” she said. “Presbyterian and Montefiore are aging and the rooms are rather small to hold the technology for today, so we do have plans for that.”

Asbestos removal currently is underway inside the DeSoto wing, said Tom Schwartzmier, senior project manager for planning, design and construction for UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside.

A demolition contractor has yet to be selected, but Schwartzmier said the DeSoto wing could start to come down in a matter of weeks.

“Our goal is to try to begin demolition work sometime around the first of May,” he said. “It’s my goal to get the majority of this done, if we can, when the Pitt students aren’t here for the summer.  Oakland’s much slower when the Pitt students aren’t here, which means the traffic situation’s better for trucks taking debris away.”

Demolition is scheduled to wrap up in mid-October and plantings are expected to be in place by winter, if all goes according to plan.

Exactly how the building will come down has yet to be determined, but it won’t be by dramatic means such as an implosion or wrecking ball, said Schwartzmier. More likely, he said, is that the building will be demolished in “bites” by jawlike equipment, or taken apart with hammers.

The work will be done during the day, with stations installed around the site to monitor dust. “We want to try to make this a very clean site with the least amount of disruption to what’s going on in the community as possible,” he said.

“It helps the community but it also helps our adjacent hospitals too. I think everyone wins if we can keep the dust down and do this in a very green type of a way.”

The demolition itself will give UPMC a head start on LEED certification for the building it eventually plans to erect on the site.

“To that end, we’re going to take a lot of the rubble that’s going to be knocked down and actually use it to fill in the hole that will remain when the building’s demolished,” Schwartzmier said. Two basement levels would be filled with brick and cement rubble, he said, estimating they extend about 25 feet below ground level.

Schwartzmier said the plan is to start from the Fifth Avenue side of the building nearest to Falk Clinic and demolish that portion of the wing first, then continue along Fifth and up DeSoto Street, finishing on the side nearest the UPMC Presbyterian emergency department entrance.

The demolition may be able to be done without relocating the busy bus stop on Fifth Avenue, Schwartzmier said, although contingency plans have been made to move the stop to a temporary spot in front of Falk Clinic if the contractor deems it necessary.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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