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June 26, 2003

New jobs and additional contributions to city coffers will result from Pitt construction projects

Two of Pitt’s more ambitious construction projects — the Biomedical Science Tower 3 (BST 3) to be built on Fifth Avenue between Darragh and Lothrop streets, and the nine-story student housing building planned for the site previously occupied by Pennsylvania Hall — together will create 980 construction jobs and another 365 off-site jobs, Pitt Executive Vice Chancellor Jerry Cochran reported at the June 19 Board of Trustees meeting.

Companies working on the projects will pour a combined $865,000 in business privilege taxes into city coffers, he said.

BST3, by enabling Pitt to attract an additional $50 million in federal research money annually, also should spawn 1,500 permanent jobs in the area (based on a nationally accepted formula that each $1 million in external research funding produces 30.7 new support jobs), Cochran added.

Cochran was addressing Pitt trustees but, obviously, his intended audience also included Mayor Tom Murphy. Faced with a $60 million shortfall in the city’s budget, Murphy is seeking state approval to begin taxing Pitt and other non-profit institutions.

University officials have called Pitt’s tax-exempt status “sacred,” and point to the economic contributions of Pitt, UPMC and other non-profits: creating jobs, spinning off high-tech companies, attracting young people to the region, and generating amusement and parking tax revenues for the city, among other things.

Since 1995-96, the academic year that Mark Nordenberg became chancellor, Pitt building and renovation projects have supported 3,500 construction jobs and 1,400 off-site jobs, said Cochran.

The executive vice chancellor also reported that:

• Some 85 new jobs were created in the retail space within Sennott Square, a building that added tax-paying real estate to a block of Oakland where properties formerly were all tax-exempt.

• The Petersen Events Center generated 35 full-time jobs in management and maintenance plus 350 part-time jobs for people working the center’s events.

• Since 1995-96, Pitt has constructed or renovated 141 buildings involving 7 million gross square feet at a cost of $516.4 million. That includes 29 new and seven purchased buildings.

— Bruce Steele

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