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March 20, 2003

Pitt holds "virtual" groundbreaking

Pitt officials and local and community leaders, including Chancellor Mark Nordenberg and Allegheny County Chief Executive James Roddey, lined up in hard hats, grabbed shovels, scooped up real dirt and tossed it toward a projection screen — all indoors at Alumni Hall — simulating a groundbreaking for Pitt’s new Biomedical Science Tower 3 (BST3).

As they did so, the screen image of an empty lot on Fifth Avenue faded into a 10-story limestone-and-glass building, where in 2005 Pitt expects to open a state-of-the-art biomedical facility.

Holding the March 6 event inside saved the participants from the frigid weather for what Nordenberg called Pitt’s first ever virtual groundbreaking.

Actual construction of the $188 million building — designed by Boston’s Payette Associates Inc., in association with the Pittsburgh firm JSA — is scheduled to begin next month on Fifth Avenue between Darragh and Lothrop streets.

A grant of $10.8 million to Pitt, funded equally by the Scaife Family Foundation and the DSF Charitable Foundation, will partially support the construction. A matching gift of $10 million from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) also will support the project.

BST3’s seventh floor is the future home of the laboratories of the Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases (PIND), which will integrate, coordinate and support education and medical research in neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, stroke and other related disorders. In addition to being the home of PIND’s laboratories, BST3 will house some 50 research groups and 500 scientists in state-of-the-art biological research and specialized laboratories for structural biology, synthetic chemistry, computational biology, and genomics and proteomics facilities.

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