By SUSAN JONES
As of May 1, all construction projects in Pennsylvania can resume, as long as they adhere to safety protocols established by the state.
But that doesn’t mean that all projects on Pitt’s campuses will be up and running again.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the University to re-evaluate our master plan and re-prioritize projects within this plan,” the University said in a statement. “For the foreseeable future, we are adopting the most conservative posture possible while maintaining the viability and safety of our campus communities. Within this landscape, we are only advancing projects that are essential or necessary to maintain the safety of our campus communities.”
In practical terms, that means work on Bigelow Boulevard and Scaife Hall will resume. These projects are both well underway and leaving them unfinished presents safety concerns.
Bigelow between the Cathedral of Learning and the William Pitt Union is undergoing a complete overhaul above and below ground. It has been closed since November and was scheduled to reopen before classes started this fall.
Construction of a west wing addition to Scaife Hall has been ongoing for the past several months, including infrastructure work that has caused Lothrop Street to be closed. The original completion date was estimated as December 2021.
“As we learn more about the pandemic’s long-term impact, we will re-evaluate our priorities and continue modifying project plans accordingly,” the statement said.
All businesses and employees in the construction industry must adhere to the state secretary of health’s order for business safety measures, which requires that every person at a work site wear masks or face coverings unless they are unable for medical or safety reasons.
Construction projects must adhere to proper social distancing and provide hand-washing and sanitizing stations for workers, as well as cleaning and sanitizing protocols for high risk transmission areas. Businesses must identify a “pandemic safety officer” for each project or work site, or, for large scale construction projects, for each contractor at the site.
On April 27, the office of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto also said construction could resume this Friday within the city, but all permit holders who suspended work must submit new dates prior to resuming construction with the permit number and anticipated restart date. Permits will begin to be issued May 1, but processing could take several business days because of a backlog.
The final touches to complete the third floor of Hillman Library also will go forward. At the Senate Library committee meeting on April 23, University Library System director Kornelia Tancheva said the complete rehaul of the building is mostly funded by the state, so the current work shouldn’t be impacted by Pitt’s decision to slowdown projects in light of losses brought on by the pandemic. But it’s unclear how state budget shortfalls will affect the rest of the project.
The third floor was closed last spring and was set to reopen this month. In February, Greg Scott, senior vice chancellor for Business and Operations, said the floor was almost complete. Right now, design work on the first three floors is continuing, Tancheva said, because funding had already been released for that.
Projects on hold
Work on the Petersen Sports Complex is largely on hold at this time, the University said. A third floor was being added to the existing building and the first and second floors were to be expanded, to allow the baseball, softball, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s lacrosse teams and coaches to be consolidated into one building. This project is the first part of the ambitious Victory Heights plan for Pitt Athletics.
Demolition was supposed to begin this week on the O’Hara Garage to make way for the new recreation center, but that work also is being delayed, according to the University.
Renovations to the Broadhurst Science Center, part of Pitt–Titusville’s new Education and Training Hub, also have been postponed.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 412-648-4294.
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