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April 29, 1999

City Planning Commission gives Pitt projects conditional approval

City Planning Commission gives Pitt projects conditional approval

Two University expansion projects were approved conditionally by the City Planning Commission April 20.

Construction of phase II of the Bouquet Gardens student housing project and the Multi-Purpose Academic Complex (MPAC) now face a public hearing and vote before Pittsburgh City Council. The hearing and vote are likely to take place next month, according to a planning commission official.

The City Zoning Board of Adjustment granted a zoning variance for the housing project April 8. The MPAC site did not require a zoning variance.

The Bouquet Gardens expansion had faced conditional opposition at a March 23 planning commission hearing. Officials and clients of People's Oakland, a social services agency located in two Pitt-owned houses on the proposed site, had urged the commission to block razing the buildings for one year to allow time for the agency to relocate. (See University Times, April 1.)

People's Oakland executive director Maureen Cook testified April 20 that her group and Pitt were close to resolving the matter, and she expected an agreement to be formalized by the end of April. Cook withdrew objections on behalf of People's Oakland and said that the agency would be meeting the University's May 15 deadline for vacating the Oakland Avenue buildings.

Both Cook and Pitt officials declined to elaborate on the agreement, pending finalizing of the details.

Planning commission chair Thomas Armstrong congratulated the parties for coming to an understanding.

University officials have set a June 1 start date for the housing project to meet an August 2000 completion date. Construction of phase I of the project is underway, with a target completion date of Aug. 1, 1999.

Phase II will add five buildings and 304 beds in garden-style apartments on the Oakland Avenue/South Bouquet Street/Sennott Street property. The estimated cost of the phase II project is $9.2 million.

The planning commission approved the project, but attached four conditions: 1) the University must submit a more detailed landscape plan for the site; 2) the University must enforce its agreement that students living in the new dorms will not be eligible to participate in the city's resident parking permit plan; 3) the pending agreement between Pitt and People's Oakland must be satisfactory to the two parties and the commission; and 4) Pitt must show in more detail where the on-site access areas for the disabled will be located.

The second Pitt project approved by the commission, the Multi-Purpose Academic Complex, will be a six-story academic building in the block just north of the housing project. It will house the College of Business Administration, the psychology and computer science departments, a law school clinic, a police mini-station, first-floor retail space facing Forbes Avenue, and public parking for about 90 cars.

The facility, if approved by City Council, will cover about 31,500 square feet. The projected cost is $32.4 million; the project is expected to take 24-27 months from ground-breaking, according to the Facilities Management 10-year plan. No construction time table has been set.

The planning commission attached the following conditions to its approval of MPAC: Pitt must 1) submit a construction management plan for commission approval; 2) submit more detailed drawings of the site's surrounding landscape; and 3) return to the commission for approval once the proposed occupants of the retail space are determined.

Additionally, the University was asked to enforce a parking agreement that staff working in the MPAC not be allowed to use the 90 metered parking spaces meant to support the building's retail space.

None of the conditions on either project will delay the start of construction or the City Council approval process, a staffer for the planning commission said.

On April 23, the executive committee of the University's Board of Trustees approved a resolution to fund four capital projects, including the phase II Oakland housing construction, by raising the fiscal year 1999 capital budget by an amount not to exceed $30 million through the issuance of capital asset notes.

The four capital projects are:

* Phase II Bouquet Gardens housing — $9.2 million; funding source: auxiliary debt.

* Law school classroom renovations — $1.8 million; funding sources: FY1999 capital budget, $1 million; unrestricted plant funds/new funding, $800,000.

* Scaife Hall 8th- and 9th-floor laboratory renovations — $7 million; funding source: senior vice chancellor for Health Sciences/capital funds.

* Acquisition of Bellefield Towers — $10 million; funding sources: Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC) restricted funds, $4 million; Commonwealth WPIC general annual allocation, $2 million; Commonwealth capital funds, $4 million.

–Peter Hart

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