Board committee OKs Heinz Chapel spire restoration for $11.5M


The Board of Trustees Property and Facilities committee at its Feb. 23 meeting approved two construction projects, totaling more than $18 million, and the lease of space at SouthSide Works for the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

Heinz Chapel

Work to inspect the spire or “fleche” of Heinz Chapel, which extends approximately 120 feet above the ridge of the high roof, first began in November 2021.

“The work to-date has been investigatory and has been methodically measured to ensure we protect Heinz Chapel in every action we take,” David DeJong, senior vice chancellor for business and operations, said in an email. “This comprehensive assessment required historic preservation and restoration experts to carefully remove select panels and investigate the conditions behind the panels.”

The inspections found that the spire, which was built in 1938, had significant deterioration of the underlying structural steel.

The Trustees committee approved a project that will remove the copper panels covering the structural steel and transport to an off-site location for inspection and repair; repair or replace the damaged and corroded structural steel, including sandblasting it and coating it with an epoxy to prevent corrosion; replace the copper panels; replace the slate roof with the original historic slate; and finally remove scaffolding and restore any damaged landscaping.

The project is expected to cost around $11.5 million. The work is not expected to impact events inside the chapel. Corrine Bechtel, Heinz Chapel coordinator, said so far workers have been very flexible in not disrupting events inside the chapel.

New 7-T MRI suite

The committee also approved a project, at an estimated cost of $6.6 million, to develop a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) suite within UPMC Presbyterian’s Magnetic Resonance Research Center.

The project — a joint effort between the School of Medicine and Swanson School of Engineering — will expand on the existing 7-Tesla (7-T) related research projects, as well as enable patient evaluation and basic, translational and clinical research as part of a collective with UPMC.

The existing 7-T MRI in the Biomedical Science Tower 3 is approaching the end of its useful life, the resolution said, and a replacement MRI has been purchased. The proposed project will construct a suite for the new 7-T MRI within the existing MR Research Center on the eighth floor of UPMC Presbyterian.

SHRS space at SouthSide Works

The committee approved a plan for the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences to lease 23,321 square feet of space at the former SouthSide Works movie theater, now called Box Office, at 2751 Sydney St.

The space will “provide a home for the hybrid doctor of physical therapy program to improve logistics and promote operational efficiencies while promoting a sense of belonging for the hybrid cohorts of this nationally ranked program,” DeJong said at the meeting.

The lease will be for 91 months (7.5 years) at a total cost of nearly $5.5 million.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 724-244-4042.


Have a story idea or news to share? Share it with the University Times.

Follow the University Times on Twitter and Facebook.