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October 12, 1995

Pitt plans more graduate student housing

A comprehensive housing strategy plan has been completed by the University and will be presented to the Pittsburgh City Planning Commission on Oct. 18.

Developed as a stipulation of the Planning Commission's acceptance of Pitt's master space plan last April, the strategy was made public last month to the general approval of Oakland neighborhood groups and residents.

Oakland Planning and Development Corp. Executive Director Susan Golomb told Senate Council's plant utilization and planning (PUP) committee at its Monday, Oct. 9, meeting that she thought a Sept. 30 forum on the strategy "went very well." Golomb added, though, that Oakland residents still are concerned that the strategy does not properly address undergraduate student housing needs.

A housing survey conducted by the University in June confirmed the findings of a 1993 survey that 2,200-2,500 new beds are needed to house students on campus. But the June survey also revealed a dramatic shift in which students want to live on campus. A 1991 housing survey conducted as part of the Pitt's development of a master space plan found that 15 percent of graduate students would live in on-campus, graduate-student housing if it was available and that 74 percent of undergraduates would live in on-campus housing if available.

According to the June survey, those numbers have changed dramatically. Now 45 percent of graduate students say they would live in on-campus, graduate-student housing if it was available and only 22 percent of undergraduates say they want to live in on-campus housing.

Changing graduate student demographics were pointed to as a major reason behind the reversal in housing preferences. Graduate students today tend to be older than in the past and frequently require housing for longer periods, both in terms of year-round occupancy and total duration in the housing market.

As a result of the shift in mix of graduate and undergraduate student preferences revealed by the survey, the comprehensive housing strategy recommends that Pitt switch its housing focus from undergraduate to graduate students. It proposes creating 2,050 new beds for graduate students and only 450 for undergraduates.

The recommendation that Pitt shift its housing focus to accommodate more graduate students concerns Oakland residents because undergraduates living off-campus in residential areas are more likely to cause disturbances than older graduate students. Despite concerns about the shift in focus, Golomb told PUP that Oakland residents remain hopeful that Pitt will concentrate on creating more undergraduate housing. "I hope that we can work together," she said.

Approaches for improving the student housing situation outlined in the comprehensive housing strategy include: * Renewal and improvement of existing on-campus housing: The University plans to continue a $19 million multi-year student housing remodeling project.

* New on-campus housing: New housing is envisioned for the hillside near fraternity houses on the upper campus, on Fifth Avenue between Oakland Avenue and Bouquet Street, and at the western end of the Forbes/Fifth corridor near the Forbes Building, 3501 Forbes Ave.

* Apartment buildings: Pitt will continue to identify apartment buildings outside of Oakland that are suitable for students. Toward that end, Pitt last year purchased the Centre Plaza Apartments in Shadyside, which added 208 beds to the University's total.

* Transportation improvements: Establishment of shuttle bus service and the Port Authority Transit's Pitt Zone service to Squirrel Hill and Shadyside has made it possible for 350 graduate students to move out of the Oakland area and still easily commute to campus.

* Targeted referrals: Pitt plans to work with Oakland landlords to identify appropriate units for undergraduate housing. Landlords listed by the University would agree to maintain and operate their properties in accordance with standards developed by Pitt and community-based organizations.

* Additional beds within existing facilities: The University has begun to restructure TV lounges in Sutherland Hall to increase bed space. As of the start of the fall term, 28 beds were added to Sutherland.

* Student/community relations: Pitt has taken, or soon will take, steps to improve relations between students who live in off-campus housing and their neighbors, including: stricter enforcement of the student code of conduct; encouraging students who live off-campus to join neighborhood organizations, and sponsoring education programs on the responsibility of tenants.

–Mike Sajna

Filed under: Feature,Volume 28 Issue 4

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