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May 17, 2007

$1 billion facilities plan announced

This week Pitt announced plans to spend more than $1 billion — that’s with a “B” — in facilities over the next 12 years.

According to a years-in-the-making, just-released document titled “The University of Pittsburgh Facilities Plan 2007-2018,” Pitt is estimating a total projected cost, factoring in inflation, of proposed facilities to be $1,038,136,000 by the conclusion of the 12 years.

(All cost estimates reported here are preliminary and presented in inflated dollars. Final costs will be determined as project dates approach, the plan states.)

The 12-year plan is weighted heavily toward renovation as opposed to new construction, but does propose building a 500-bed residence hall, a dining facility and a modern campus book store on the Pittsburgh campus. Locations for new buildings are not specified.

Also planned for Oakland are a Trees pool diving well, a soccer complex, a track complex, a softball field and a marching band complex, as well as additions to several buildings, including Salk Hall, the Music Building, Falk School (see story on page 7) and the Frick Fine Arts Building.

The plan is broken down into four-year increments: 2007-2010, 2011-2014 and 2015-2018. It is further broken down by funding sources, including debt service projections for each source; kinds of projects, and by Pitt campus.

Billed as a “road map” rather than a plan “etched in stone,” the document states: “Opportunities will arise that cannot now be foreseen and priorities will inevitably shift in response to those opportunities. At the same time, a clear and consistent focus on advancing the academic mission of the University must remain at the core of the planning exercise, both now and throughout the implementation of the plan. Retaining the focus on overall institutional goals will remain the greatest challenge.”

Provost James V. Maher, who, with Executive Vice Chancellor Jerome Cochran, co-chaired the facilities planning committee, said: “It is important for all to realize that this plan, along with its predecessor plan (covering 1998-2006), is a key element in ensuring that Pitt’s academic programs will be competitive with the very best in the coming years.”

Robert Pack, vice provost for academic planning and resources management, cautioned that the dollar figures in the plan should not be viewed as final, but rather as baseline figures to keep facilities up-to-date.

“The actual cost will depend on the development of comprehensive programs for each building as well as changing conditions and needs at the time each project is undertaken,” said Pack, who served on the planning committee. “Because modernization, renewals and upgrades cost roughly half of what new construction does, the vast majority of the planned expenditures will go to upgrading existing facilities rather than new construction,” he said.

“The real driving force of the plan is that we desperately need to create more research laboratories,” Pack told the University Times this week. “And it was always looking at how can we do that within the envelope of exist-ing buildings.”

The facilities planning committee’s analysis included how best to do that with the least disruption and inconvenience to building occupants and programs.

“We can’t move everybody out to renovate a building. So we have to have space to move people within a facility while a portion is undergoing renovations. Then it’s a domino effect,” Pack said. “The real challenge, which we’re working through now, for instance in Benedum, is to work through the details of who moves, when do they move, and so forth. That’s one reason these things will take a long time.”

The bulk of the overall funding for the plan will come from the E&G budget ($612.3 million). Medicine will fund $206.5 million; auxiliaries $130 million, and gifts/others $89.4 million.

Some $33.9 million already is committed to projects, such as the Benedum Hall renovations and certain residence hall projects on the regional campuses that began or will begin in the current fiscal year, funded from monies allocated in the FY06 capital, operating, and student and other fees budgets, the plan noted.

Within E&G-sourced projects, 80 percent will fund renewal and preservation projects, while 10 percent will be expended on campus infrastructure and about 10 percent for new construction, according to the plan.

Cost estimates in the plan will be reviewed prior to the beginning of each phase to allow for programmatic changes or to take advantage of previously unforeseen opportunities.

Earmarked for significant renovations and upgrades on the Pittsburgh campus over the 12-year life of the plan (see chart) are: Allen/Thaw complex; Benedum; Parran/Crabtree; Salk/Dental Annex; Clapp/Langley/Crawford; Chevron; Victoria; RIDC Computer Center; Cathedral of Learning; Hillman Library; Detre/Western Psych facilities; Falk Library; Scaife, the Starzl Biomedical Science Tower and Biomedical Science Towers 2 and 3.

Due to the lack of an on-campus conference facility, the plan recommends renovating the former University Club, which Pitt purchased in 2005, to host academic conferences and meetings. “The facility also has other revenue-generating capability in terms of room rental and food service, including perhaps the inclusion of a club for faculty/staff/alumni, etc.,” the plan states.

Specific proposals for the University Club building will come following the completion of a feasibility study. “The cost of the ongoing operation of the facility would be met entirely through revenue generation,” the plan states.

For planning purposes the plan includes a $4.5 million price tag on renovations of the facility.

Pitt has no plans currently to purchase other properties, Pack said. “There are none right now, but we can always adjust,” he said. “The principle is that it is a lot cheaper to renovate than build, and the second principle is that it is a lot cheaper to operate after renovating, due to energy and use of space efficiencies. We do not want to expand any more than necessary the amount of square footage at the University given the utility costs, inflation, changes in building codes and technological advances which will all impact the final costs of the plan,” he said.

On the other hand, Pitt will continue to use rental properties, especially for clinically based projects. “We did maintain the principle from the old plan that large research projects, particularly those that are externally funded, and those that involve patients or populations outside the University, are more suited for rental space.”

Plans for a new book store or for renovating the current one are open-ended, Pack said. “It really depends in the long-run how academic book stores are evolving.”

Some book stores are being out-sourced to commercial book sellers, he noted.

“We haven’t made any decisions. At some point we will probably need a bigger book store. It’s one of those campus amenities that are important,” Pack said.

The plan also includes a line item of $66.6 million for projects in “all other academic facilities” on the Pittsburgh campus.

The regional campuses will be funded under the 12-year plan for projects as follows: $16.4 million to Bradford; $18.9 million for Greensburg, $26.9 million for Johnstown, and $2.4 million for Titusville.

In addition, the regionals will share a proportional amount of funding for classroom and IT improvements.

The committee that developed the plan, which comprised two faculty and 16 administrators, first completed a University-wide space inventory. Pitt hired IDC Architects to assess each building’s utility infrastructure.

The committee also surveyed academic units to determine each unit’s research, teaching and technological needs for the coming decade and the adequacy of the current facilities to meet those needs.

Pitt’s athletics and recreation facilities were evaluated by a separate committee with support from HNTB Consultants, a firm that specializes in athletics facilities planning, according to Pitt’s 12-year plan.

“The primary goal of the committee was to ensure that balance was retained between athletics and recreation,” the plan states.

The plan is online at

—Peter Hart

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