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March 18, 1999

Planning commission approves University's revised facilities plan

Planning commission approves University's revised facilities plan

Pitt's revised 10-year facilities plan was approved unanimously by the City Planning Commission March 9, according to a commission official. A public hearing was held on Feb. 23 to review the University's major construction projects.

Commission staff member Jim Brown said that the University was granted an exemption from presenting revised plans for its convocation center, the site of which is under review pending a decision on the fate of Pitt Stadium (see story, page 1).

The commission gave no time frame for reviewing plans for the convocation center, Brown said.

The commission's approval of the master facilities plan clears the way for Pitt to secure the okay for two major construction projects: phase II of the Bouquet Gardens undergraduate student housing project and the Multi-Purpose Academic Complex (MPAC).

A March 23 planning commission public hearing is scheduled for both projects, Brown said.

Last summer, Pitt secured planning commission and City Board of Zoning Commission approvals for phase I of the housing project, currently under construction in South Oakland. The University needed a zoning variance for the design of the apartments, which was not in compliance with zoning codes for height, setback (distance from the curb) and side spacing (proximity to existing buildings). Zoning board approval, secured last July, covers all three phases of the housing project.

Phase I of the Bouquet Gardens apartments — 192 beds in three, 4-story apartment buildings — is scheduled to open this fall; phase II of the student housing complex is expected to add 320 more beds and be completed in time for fall classes in 2000; phas e III will add 280 beds, bringing the total to about 800 by fall 2001.

Phase I is expected to cost $5.3 million; phases II and III have not yet been put out for bid.

Pending approvals, the MPAC building will be constructed on Forbes Avenue in the block between South Bouquet Street and Oakland Avenue. Sennott Street will divide MPAC from the Bouquet Gardens apartments.

Construction of MPAC is expected to take 24-27 months from the groundbreaking, according to Randy Richardson, Facilities Management architect. No date for groundbreaking has been set, Richardson said. The design for the academic building is in compliance with zoning ordinances.

Pitt's requests may be ruled on by the planning commission as early as April 6. Both requests then must pass a Pittsburgh City Council public hearing and vote, and must gain capital-funding approval of the University's Board of Trustees. The board is expe cted to okay the funding at its June meeting, according to Ken Service, news and information spokesperson.

The MPAC building is slated to house most of the undergraduate College of Business Administration, and the FAS departments of psychology and computer science, in addition to a law school clinic and a campus police mini-station.

One or more commercial establishments will rent space on the ground floor of the building, facing Forbes Avenue; there will be a loading dock at the rear of the building. About 50 metered public parking spaces are planned at the facility.

The projected cost of MPAC is $32.4 million. Of that, $20 million is coming from the state out of the $138 million for major capital projects that the Commonwealth pledged to Pitt in January 1998. The other $12.4 million will be raised by the University, Service said.

–Peter Hart

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