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April 29, 2004

Pitt Will Contribute $ to Schenley Plaza Project

Pitt will contribute funding to the overhaul of nearby Schenley Plaza, a University official said this week.
Plans call for converting the plaza, the 5-acre site between Hillman and Carnegie libraries, from a parking lot into a public park. The plans include a 3-plus-acre grass field with pedestrian paths and a portable stage, new flower beds, food kiosks, movable chairs and other amenities designed to beautify the neighborhood and promote the park as a town square-like meeting place.
About 100 short-term, metered parking spots on the reconfigured perimeter will partially offset the loss of 238 spaces currently available in the plaza’s central parking lot. Traffic patterns also will be reconfigured on the surrounding streets.
The project is being overseen by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, which engaged Sasaki Associates of Boston to design the park.
According to G. Reynolds Clark, Pitt vice chancellor for Community and Governmental Relations, the plan enjoys widespread support from city officials, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and Oakland community groups. The Historic Review Commission approved the redesign last October.
Last week, Gov. Ed Rendell came bearing state support – to the tune of $5 million from the Regional Assistance Capital Program – to fund nearly half of the expected $10.1 million project costs ($11 million counting assorted costs already incurred including design work and traffic studies).
“The University, as part of the Oakland Investment Committee, agreed as a group to be supportive and to come up with the funding in order to make Oakland a more attractive place,” Clark told the University Times this week. “We see this as a community investment strategy that will enhance the area.”
The Oakland Investment Committee, part of the Allegheny Conference, includes Carnegie Mellon, The Carnegie Museums and Library, UPMC, the R.K. Mellon Foundation and the Heinz Endowments, along with Pitt. “We do not want to spotlight the role of one organization over another, but to support the project as a group,” Clark said, declining to specify Pitt’s funding commitment. “We hope to get construction started this summer, and have the park completed by summer 2005,” he said.

-Peter Hart

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