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

April 15, 1999

Relocation will affect convocation center design, Senate PUP committee


Relocation will affect convocation center design, Senate PUP committee assured

Facilities Management assured the University Senate plant utilization and planning (PUP) committee April 13 that it is considering issues related to Pitt's expansion plans, including redesigning the proposed convocation center because of its new location.

The committee was struggling with the ramifications of the announcement that the University would raze Pitt Stadium and construct a new convocation/recreation center and student housing on the site.

In addition, the committee was pressing for details of plans for the area on campus adjacent to the planned Multi-Purpose Academic Complex (MPAC) and Bouquet Gardens housing project in South Oakland. (See University Times, April 1.)

Chief among the committee's concerns are the design of the convocation center and plans for the expected "pedestrian corridors" that would result from increased student activity in the South Bouquet Street area and movement from lower to upper campus.

Ana Guzman, associate vice chancellor for Facilitates Management, said, "In essence, this [stadium site] project gives us the opportunity to provide a new image for the upper campus. It will have, obviously, a major impact on pedestrian circulation and parking. Even before we start with the project, we'll need to address all these things. I can't give you many details right now, but I can assure you these things are being looked at carefully."

Guzman said that stadium demolition would probably begin in early 2000 and take about four months. (Pitt is planning to play its last on-campus football game Nov. 13, 1999.) Construction of the convocation center and recreation facility is expected to take two years. The upper-campus housing project will be started later, she said.

In response to questions about the convocation center's design, Guzman acknowledged that the routes of access to the new complex will need to be rethought. "No, we are not just 'sliding it down the hill,' as you've referred to it," she said. "We recognize that people will be coming into it from all sides, not just heading straight up the hill."

Guzman said architects also were studying how best to make the new complex a connector through which students can pass on their way to Trees Hall and Fitzgerald Field House.

Committee member James DeAngelis said, "I'm glad to hear that no one is suggesting to use the same design for the convocation center. At the same time, the program for the convocation center and recreation center should be re-thought because of some of the recreational activities plans that are changing."

Van Beck Hall, PUP committee co-chair, said a major consideration of any stadium-site plans is hillside topography. "It's practically a cliff up there. It's very steep terrain. All the drawings I've seen don't make sense to me. How do you fit in the facilities planned with the site?" he asked. "Also, how are we linking the two, upper and lower campus? Would it be done through O'Hara Street, Thackeray Street, DeSoto, all of them?"

Again, Guzman maintained that architects were working on these issues. "We could have a series of steps and ramps up to the green space [planned for the stadium site]; they could be contoured to the hillside," she said.

DeAngelis said he would add two related items to be considered. "First, there is the area south of Fifth across Forbes — the old Pitt Tavern site — and continuing south all the way to the Bouquet housing, which will be a natural corridor; and second, we should be studying development opportunities [throughout the affected areas]."

DeAngelis argued that these latter considerations were not just the purview of Pitt.

"It's a city issue as well," he said. "The old Pitt Tavern site [Fifth Avenue at South Bouquet] is an opportunity, consistent with these other plans, to have private investment stimulated in South Oakland. The interest in development will only increase as these projects come to fruition."

DeAngelis recommended a coalition of the community and University to explore development.

"We can create an environment that's thoughtful and sensitive to the University's needs, but stimulates other players in the area without a lot of University [monetary] investment," he said. "We're making a new edge of the campus with the convocation center and another one with the Bouquet housing. We need a development partnership, and the time is now before [construction begins]. That's what this committee ought to be involved with. Pedestrian flow is important, yes, but the city and community might be more receptive to new pedestrian flow if given the opportunity to see potential development," DeAngelis said.

Regarding plans for the plaza in the area near Hillman Library between Bigelow Boulevard and South Bouquet Street, Guzman said, "We know that eventually, with MPAC and the new housing, there will be more pedestrian traffic, and the plaza is really an extension of Sennott Street. We definitely want to energize the plaza space.

"We'd like to provide more amenities — tables and chairs with umbrellas, like outside the William Pitt Union — and we plan to keep vehicles away," she said. "Right now, service vehicles are always in the area between Hillman Library and David Lawrence [Hall], which very few people use, and we plan to get them out of there and make it more attractive, with better lighting and so forth."

Guzman cautioned that plans for part of the plaza area between Hillman Library and Forbes Quadrangle are necessarily dependent on plans for the library's expansion, which is five years away.

PUP co-chair Michael Spring said, "I'm reassured that many of these things are being addressed. I think we all feel that this is a great vision. The question is: "Is this vision made up of 10 small separate pieces, or is it a well-thought-out whole? I guess the fear of the committee is that there is an increased sensitivity that we might speak up too late," he said.

The PUP committee members agreed to schedule at least two more meetings during the summer.

–Peter Hart

Leave a Reply