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March 20, 2003

Pitt plans to build 5 dorms

Pitt hopes to build five undergraduate residence halls on the upper campus east of the Petersen Events Center, bringing the Pittsburgh campus’s capacity to about 7,000 beds.

Bob Reppe, City Planning department official, said Pitt has applied for a conditional use permit, which is required for construction of residence halls or fraternities under the city’s 1998 institutional zoning codes.

“At the same time, under zoning regulations that went into effect in 1999, Pitt also must seek approval for its institutional Master Facilities Plan,” Reppe said. That plan includes expansion of the lower campus’s Clapp-Langley-Crawford halls complex between Fifth Avenue and Bigelow Boulevard, as well as identifying potential future construction sites.

According to a preliminary proposal sent to the planning commission, the five dorms will be between three and nine stories high, providing a total of about 1,000 beds, Reppe said. The project calls for opening at least some of the dorms by fall 2004.

Pitt Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Robert Hill said the goal of the housing project was to make it possible to offer undergraduates on-campus housing for four years. “It is a valuable recruitment tool to offer first-class campus housing to students who want it from freshman year through graduation,” Hill said. The University would like to have 400-450 beds available by the fall of 2004, he said.

“We do not have cost estimates yet,” Hill said, “but the University resources used [to construct the dormitories] will be made up from rental receipts from those students who eventually live in the buildings. We will not be using tax levy funds or tuition funding.”

Both the conditional-use dorm proposal and the revised master plan must secure city planning and Pittsburgh City Council approval, Reppe said. Pitt’s projects are on the agenda for the planning commission’s next public meeting, March 25.

According to Eli Shorak, associate vice chancellor for business, Pitt will present design and construction plans for the new dorms, to be located on and near University Drive, at that meeting.

Reppe said, “The commission will hear Pitt’s proposal, and likely will vote on it at its next scheduled meeting (April 8). If it’s approved, it goes to City Council, but it’s not on council’s agenda yet. Pitt has also identified other areas [on the upper campus], such as the OC Lot, for potential future construction,” he said. He noted, however, that the master plan isn’t required to be specific about designs or timeframes for individual projects until Pitt is ready to seek city planning approval.

—Peter Hart

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