By SUSAN JONES
For Anish Kumar, Pitt’s new vice chancellor for real estate, one of the most interesting things about the Oakland campus is how the University buildings are intermeshed with the city.
“It’s an urban campus that is so closely knit with the community,” he said. “Where it starts, where it stops, where the community starts and stops are all not so clearly defined. There isn’t a wall around our campus. I like the porous nature of our campus.”
Right now, Kumar, who started at Pitt on Feb. 14, is working to get a full picture of Pitt’s real estate portfolio — both in Oakland and on the regional campuses. This includes Pitt-owned buildings that are occupied by the University or leased out and space that Pitt leases in buildings owned by others.
Previously, real estate was under the wing of Mary Beth McGrew, vice chancellor for planning, design and real estate. She plans to retire from the University later this year. She has transitioned real estate duties to Kumar and is assisting in the hiring process for a vice chancellor of planning, design and construction.
“You think about an example of the right person at the right time and Anish could not be better suited for what we need,” said David DeJong, senior vice chancellor for business and operations.
DeJong said Kumar’s work at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was driving the initiative to fast forward translational life sciences research is a big part of what Pitt wants to do with developments like the Assembly at 5150 Centre Ave. in Bloomfield and at Hazelwood Green, where Pitt plans to build a highly specialized biomanufacturing facility called Pitt BioForge using a $100 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
Kumar also came to Pitt with a huge network of contacts, DeJong said. When he went to introduce him to Pitt’s partners at local developer Walnut Capital, Kumar already knew them.
One of things Kumar stresses is that his office will be working with members of the Pitt community — students, faculty and staff — as well as Oakland community members, the city of Pittsburgh, local businesses, and other partners “to meet the University’s core needs.”
“My biggest priority is to learn as much as I can about Pitt and about the community,” Kumar said. “I want to make sure that I have as deep an understanding as possible of this really multifaceted community — its students, its faculty and staff. There’s Oakland, the Hill District, Hazelwood. There’s so many communities and so many entities that we touch. Real estate touches everybody and everybody touches real estate. So I just want to take the time to gain as much knowledge as I can.”
He said one of the things his office will be looking at is whether Pitt needs all the spaces it currently leases, because the flexible work agreements have meant fewer people are coming to campus each day.
“In the shared governance culture at Pitt, these are all decisions made in collaboration with end users, with the planning and design group, and with my office,” Kumar said.
While it’s too early for him to comment on any specific real estate transactions, he said they will work very collaboratively with the planning group, which understands what the University’s needs are, and then make recommendations for what Pitt needs to do for each asset.
He said the real estate office will definitely be involved with Walnut Capital’s Oakland Crossings project, which includes the Pitt-owned Quality Inn site on the Boulevard of the Allies. There are ongoing discussions with Walnut Capital about who will manage that site.
The real estate market in Pittsburgh is in a good place right now, he said, as the city continues to transform from “steel town to tech town.”
“I see strong interest in the real estate market here,” he said. “I’ve heard about the investment that Google has made and Amazon and a lot of these technology companies that are coming here. Obviously biotech is is very big. So I think that it’s an exciting time for Pittsburgh, as it charts its course for the next 10 to 20 years.”
Kumar came to Pitt from the University of Pennsylvania’s Pennovation Works campus, where he oversaw strategic direction and activities, including real estate planning, development, leasing and programming for the 23-acre space. He previously led Amtrak’s nationwide real estate development department. He is a registered architect and certified national planner.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-244-4042.
Have a story idea or news to share? Share it with the University Times.