Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

October 12, 2017

Campus Community Identifies Strengths, Discusses Needs at Master Plan Focus Groups

 Dana Perzynski making notes on a large board

Project manager Dana Perzynski of campus planning consultant Ayers Saint Gross summarizes comments from the audience during a comprehensive master plan focus group for Pitt faculty and staff. Nearly 60 people offered input on the current strengths and weaknesses and future opportunities and challenges facing the Pittsburgh campus during the Sept. 29 session at the University Club.


A standing-room-only crowd of Pitt employees filled the University Club’s largest meeting room last month to take part in one of a series of focus groups and community meetings to discuss the development of a comprehensive master plan for the Pittsburgh campus.

The Sept. 29 focus group, geared specifically toward faculty and staff, drew about 150 people to hear from representatives of Facilities Management and consultants from Ayers Saint Gross (ASG), the campus planning consulting firm contracted to guide the long-term planning process.

Institutional master plans that outline proposed campus development over 10- and 25-year time frames are updated regularly, but this is the first time in 50 years that a broader, longer-term comprehensive plan is being undertaken at the University, said ASG project manager Dana Perzynski. The current process aims to align the mission and vision of Pitt’s strategic plan with the campus physical environment, Perzynski said.

Over the course of the 90-minute session, nearly 60 participants commented on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges they see on campus.

They noted the value of the University’s people and the iconic image of the Cathedral of Learning; the desire for maintaining and expanding collaborations among departments, with neighboring institutions and in the community; the need for space; a desire for nearby housing for faculty and staff; the problem of noise; and traffic.

Several commenters drew applause from their Pitt colleagues:

  • Greg Lucsko, staff member with the University Honors College, lamented the long wait for employee campus parking passes and the need for better public transportation.
  • Carol Reichbaum, faculty member in the Graduate School of Public Health, requested that health be included among the drivers underlying the comprehensive plan.
  • DJ Stemmler, staff member at Pitt Public Health, cited parents’ long waits for on-campus day care. “We want to continue to attract faculty and staff to stay and to live here … we need to expand that day care,” she said.
  • Kit Ayars, staff member at the Center for Creativity, asked that creativity be showcased in the plan. “We have a tendency to bury our creative energy by putting things like studio arts or music or theatre arts underground,” Ayers observed. “There’s tremendous creative energy across campus. It should be up above ground and forefronted [sic].”
  • Pitt Public Health’s Vice Provost for Research Conduct and Compliance George Huber raised concerns about traffic flow on campus. “Try to make it more efficient and safer,” he urged.
  • Katrina Loutzenhiser, staff member in the School of Education, asked for more convenient lactation rooms. “Having to walk three blocks to a lactation room is unrealistic when you have a 20-minute break,” she said, noting that many of the school’s graduate students are mothers.

More Study Space, Faster Meals Among Students’ Concerns

A separate session for students on Sept. 29 drew about 40 people, including undergraduate and graduate students. Participants there counted among the campus’s strengths its green space, including the proximity of Schenley Plaza; the mix of historic and newer campus buildings; new recreation spaces; recently upgraded classroom technology at David Lawrence Hall; and Pitt’s continuing efforts in sustainability.

Concerns voiced by students included the need for more student housing, study space and group meeting space; updates to older residence halls; amenities for nontraditional and commuter students; gender-neutral housing and restrooms; and access to groceries and quick meals on campus.

What Comes Next

3D model of Pittsburgh campus buildings

A three-dimensional model of the Pittsburgh campus buildings and topography built by campus planning consultant Ayers Saint Gross was on display at a recent series of focus groups and community meetings about the creation of a comprehensive master plan.

ASG has collected input from the campus community in more than a dozen open-to-public focus group sessions and two Oakland community public forums. Field audit teams have been visiting every building on campus — a process that takes about three weeks — to assess how the University’s space is currently used.

The information gleaned from these tours will help ASG prepare a series of planning principles and a concept plan to present for the campus community’s comments later this year. The concept plan is essentially the “sketch before a painting” that will precede the finalization of a comprehensive master plan in 2018, said Perzynski.

ASG is soliciting additional comments from those interested in providing input for the master planning process via an online form. Additionally, the firm plans to post materials pertaining to the plan at its office space located at 3501 Forbes Ave. Details and updates will be on the Master Plan 2018 page on the Facilities Management website.


Kimberly K. Barlow,, 412-624-1379


Filed under: Feature,Volume 50 Issue 4

Leave a Reply