Property Watch: Planning Commission sends Pitt IMP on to City Council

At an April 19 hearing, the city Planning Commission voted to approve Pitt’s Institutional Master Plan and send it to city council for final approval.

Pitt has given four presentations to the Planning Commission over the past several weeks that outline the 21 projects in 10-year plan and how they will impact Oakland.

The plan received favorable comments from commission members and members of the public who testified.

Wanda Wilson, executive director of Oakland Planning and Development Corp., said her group was pleased with how Pitt engaged with the public while developing the plan. One area of particular interest, she said, was “no net gain of parking spaces is hugely significant for the community.”

Georgia Petropoulos, executive director of the Oakland Business Improvement District, said that past 12 months have made it even more clear how important Pitt is to Oakland business community and the whole region. “I cannot state enough how we experienced what it was like when the University, like other institutions in Oakland and the city, went virtual, went remote. You could walk the streets of Oakland and there was no one out. Business owners really felt the impact. That just reminded us of how extremely important this lifeline is to our economy and to our community. We're really excited to see this plan. We're also excited to see that this plan is meeting the needs of the community.”

Commission member Becky Mingo said, “I'm thankful that you took into consideration some of the comments that were made, especially how we deal with steep slopes and the respite areas along the way, increasing tree canopies, the sidewalks and colonnades that are under buildings that hangover and how we deal with massing.”

Rising costs may mean adjusting projects

At a panel discussion on April 15, Owen Cooks, Pitt’s assistant vice chancellor for planning, design and real estate, said rising construction costs have caused the University to eliminate “a gym or two” in the new recreation center project and tweak the architecture to align with the budget, the Post-Gazette reported.

Cooks spoke at an event sponsored by NAIOP, a commercial real estate development association. He said Pitt’s priority right now is increasing student housing.

“We have allowed the commercial market, which can move a lot quicker than we can, to take up some of that demand. In our opinion, that directly impinges on the affordability of a Pitt education because we think we can house them more cost-effectively and provide a better program and experience overall for our students,” he said.

Pitt also is hoping to break ground on several projects by fall, including the new rec center, Cooks said. Although some aspects may be scaled back because, Cooks said, the University took a $100-plus million hit “directly related to COVID.”

— Susan Jones


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