What’s new: Facilities work brings updates across campus

See the Sept. 12 issue of the University Times for a rundown of new people and programs at Pitt



Each year, Pitt’s campuses get a refresh during the summer. Some projects are small and barely noticed, while others grab everyone’s attention, such as the new Pitt Global Hub in Posvar Hall (see related story).

This summer was no different, except it included the beginning of a few renovations that will last into next year and beyond (we’re looking at you Scaife Hall).

Scott Bernotas, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management, and Chris Niemann, senior project manager, gave an update on all the completed and ongoing projects on Pitt’s Oakland campus, and the regionals contributed their facilities updates.

“This coming fiscal year, we have probably five times our normal capital budget,” Bernotas said, as the Campus Master Plan projects are beginning.

So sit back and relax, because this is going to be a long list.

Cathedral of Learning

Redone G18 classroom in the Cathedral of Learning

  • Several classrooms on the ground floor — G26 on the Bigelow Boulevard side of the building and four smaller rooms — were refreshed over the summer and glass was added to the entrances to make them more inviting. The other big classroom on the ground floor, G8, won’t be done until December, because part of its sloped floor is being leveled to make the space more versatile and accessible.
  • In the Commons Room, ADA ramps were added to make the central area accessible and were opened this week. Temporary railings are in place now and then over Thanksgiving, permanent ornate guardrails will be installed.
  • The bathrooms on the second and third floors, which were as old as the building, are being completely redone. This summer, the men’s rooms were completed first, because of a leak into the chancellor’s office. The women’s restrooms will be worked on next summer.
  • The Office of the Provost now covers the entire eighth floor. The former offices of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science program were gutted and rebuilt, with raised ceilings that make the ornate windows visible and offices along a central bullpen. There also is a new reception desk in the hallway as you exit the elevators. The redone space houses staff members for the provost, but Provost Ann Cudd’s office is mostly unchanged.
  • The Philippine Nationality Room, the 31st room in the Cathedral of Learning dedicated to a specific culture, was dedicated in early June.

Chevron Hall

The expansion of the Dietrich School’s Helium Recovery system to Chevron Hall provides additional recapture of this critical and dwindling resource.

Clapp Hall

The relocation of the Hatfull Research Group (led by Dr. Graham Hatfull) provides new “digs” and additional environmental room capacity to a group whose ground-breaking research into bacteriophages is already credited with saving lives and opening a new front in the war against antibiotic-resistant infections.

David L. Lawrence Hall computer lab

New computer lab

The newly completed lab mimics the one of the ground floor of the Cathedral. It is located just as you enter Lawrence Hall from Posvar Hall on the second floor. Some spaces outside the lab also were renovated with better seating.

Forbes Tower

The outdoor atrium on the third-floor roof of Forbes Tower underwent a transformation. In addition, new lighting and seating is being installed, as well as new planters for the nutrition and community outreach programs. The lobby of Forbes Tower also was refreshed this summer.

Litchfield Towers

  • The bathrooms were redone in Tower A, the largest of the three, this summer. Last year’s similar project in Tower C came down to the wire, Niemann said, but this year they were completed with time to spare before students returned last week. Next summer, Tower B’s bathrooms will be redone.

  • In addition, a new mailing area was installed, which will work like the Amazon lockers, where you insert your ID card and a computer will tell you where your mail is.

  • And new serving stations have been added to Market Central (see related story).

Murdoch Building

Although the building at 3420 Forbes Ave. is owned by Murland Associates, Pitt has contracted to lease 81,000 of the 95,000 square feet for $2.3 million annually — everything but the first floor, where CVS will be moving later this fall. The first Pitt tenants, the Department of Physician Assistant Studies in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, moved into the second floor earlier this month. The other Pitt tenants — Senior Vice Chancellor for Research Rob Rutenbar and his team (see related story), along with Computational and Systems Biology from the School of Medicine — will be phased in, with all relocated by early 2020.

On a site note, the building that currently houses CVS at 3440 Forbes Ave. is slated for demolition, and Wexford Science + Technology, a real estate firm specializing in research-oriented development that is working with Pitt, has plans to build a 13-story office complex there. The plan is finding some resistance from Oakland residents, who spoke at a recent Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing, according to the Post-Gazette. They say the development is too tall, detrimental to the character of the neighborhood and would contribute to parking issues.

Petersen Events Center

Pitt basketball fans will notice new flipped court seating in the Petersen Events Center, which moves the team benches to the opposite sidelines, repositioning the pep band behind the team and even turning the Pitt script logo, in its new colors, at center court. The Oakland Zoo student section is now be directly behind team benches. In fact, seating throughout the entire venue has been rearranged to allow season ticket holders and fans to choose new and better locations, all to enhance Pitt’s home-court advantage.

Specialty seating areas have also been improved: Courtside Club has been expanded to include 18 additional seats opposite the team benches; in the expanded Platinum Club/Champions Club, food is now available via a buffet in the club area rather than the concessions menu; the arena’s suites have been refurbished; and the Campus View Club hospitality room has new meal buffet options.

The Pete also has a bunch of new tech features: eco-friendly LED lighting that can change color; a WiFi network that could help, in the future, with mobile ticketing and an interactive scoreboard; a center-hung video board and courtside LED displays; and a revamped media room.

Petersen Sports Complex

Scaffolding is in place to protect the people on the soccer field and to create a surface for construction crews to begin building the third floor. The $16.5 million project is the first from the Campus Master Plan to be approved. Steel will be brought up through existing roof to add the floor.

The work will consolidate into one building the teams and coaches currently housed in Fitzgerald Field House. It also will provide additional space for sports medicine, nutrition services and equipment. It is scheduled to be completed by summer 2020.

In addition, the soccer field surface (above) has been replaced, with the new turf alternating between dark and light green every six yards.

Posvar Hall

The fifth floor, home of the School of Education, is being completely gutted and rebuilt, according to Bernotas, with new walls, new carpet, along with upgraded lighting and electrical. “The partitions when you go and look at it, they're white with a lot of glass. The intent is to bring in a lot of light.”

The first half of the floor is now done and work should be completed on the second half by the end of 2019. The $8 million renovation will cover 65,000 square feet.

  • Similar work was done over the summer for the Department of Economics, which takes up about half of the fourth floor.

  • On the first floor, the Department of Statistics has a new entrance onto Posvar’s main corridor, instead of tucked away by the elevators.

Salk Hall

“Did you know Salk Hall has 27 different roofs,” Bernotas said.

“It’s a birthday cake design,” Niemann said.

The $16 million project includes renovating the entire building, including repairing the roofs and upgrading mechanical and electrical infrastructure and plumbing. The renovation of the roof started in May after an eight-month delay waiting for state approvals. The abatement around the areas that need to be demolished is really just getting underway.

The renovation of floors 2 and 4 through 11 will provide a modern and inviting environment and more efficient use of space. New classrooms, learning spaces, research laboratories, computational areas, and offices for faculty, staff graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows are planned. The project is expected to be completed in spring 2021.

Scaife Hall

  • Interior work has begun on the $120 million project, the first phase of a complete modernization of Scaife Hall. Switch gear had to be moved and a utility line put in under Lothrop Street to tie the Biomedical Science Tower to Scaife Hall. Demolition on the existing auditorium on Terrace and Lothrop streets is expected to start in October, Bernotas said. The first phase of the project will run through December 2021. The completed project will include construction of a new 600-seat lecture auditorium; new classrooms; teaching laboratories; a simulation center; and a new gross anatomy laboratory. The auditoriums and classrooms will better accommodate group learning and labs will incorporate changeable setups depending on the class. UPMC is handling management of the project, since Scaife is connected to UPMC Presbyterian.

  • Falk Library also is being renovated, forcing different sections to be relocated temporarily. The Health Science Library System is maintaining a website to update library users on any changes.  Highlights of the new space include updated and expanded learning and study spaces, integrated technology areas, modular seating, and a new entrance on Lothrop Street.

Stephen Foster Memorial

Work is quickly finishing up at the Stephen Foster Memorial. The project that started last spring includes a number of updates to enhance ADA compliance, including a new three-stop elevator to serve both theater lobbies and the floor level of the Henry Heymann Theatre, renovations to the lobby area and the Heymann Theatre and the replacement of an existing ticket booth and addition of a second booth. These projects carry an estimated total cost of $2.4 million. Niemann said they are cleaning up the outside right now and replacing some paving stones.

Thaw Hall

A new environmental science teaching lab for Geology and Environmental Science has been completed in Thaw Hall, featuring new, state-of-the-art lab casework and equipment.  

University Library System

  • Half of the third floor of Hillman Library has been readied for construction to begin, and the abatement process has started on the other half. Work on the floor, which will be similar to the fourth floor when completed, is expected to be done next summer. It will house Archives & Special Collections, including a reading room, classroom and digital interactive wall. The Text & conText Lab will provide an active environment for the creation, manipulation and disassembly of text, as well as the wide variety of forms and media in which text is represented, experienced, and stored.


  • The Open Lab at Hillman (above) is a new space for virtual reality exploration, 3D printing and project consultation on the ground floor in room G-7. It's a satellite location of the Teaching Center's Open Lab, based in Alumni Hall.

  • The Whisper Room, located on the ground floor of Hillman Library, is a reservable, sound-isolated booth that can be used for making audio recordings for both podcast and video projects. You can borrow audio recording equipment from the library or bring your own.

  • With the opening of the second off-site storage facility in Point Breeze, the library system undertook a project this year to reduce turnaround time for delivery of materials from this facility to campus to 24 hours, Mondays through Fridays.

  • Other renovated or refreshed library spaces include Frick Fine Arts, Stephen Foster Memorial Library, Langley Library and the Music Library.

Victoria Hall

The School of Nursing wet labs were recently renovated to include a fully remodeled pathology lab, an upgraded genetics lab suite, and a lab for general use. The open-concept space for pathology research now will be more suited to the specific needs of this type of research. The genetics lab improvements provide much needed additional bench space, and the new general lab will be open to the needs of all nursing researchers.


Be warned about Bigelow

In case you missed it this summer, work will begin Nov. 1 on the transformation of Bigelow Boulevard between Fifth and Forbes avenues, which will mean that block will be closed to traffic from Nov. 1 of this year until Aug. 1, 2020. Pedestrians also won’t be able to cross mid-block but will be able to go across at each end of the block.

After the $23.7 million project was approved by the Board of Trustees Property and Facilities Committee in June, Greg Scott, senior vice chancellor for Business and Operations, said, “There’s a tremendous amount of utility work that needs to occur before we fix the road and do the stuff on the top.”

The work on top will include reconfigured traffic lanes, improved bike lanes and a safer, more efficient central crosswalk.

5000 Baum project

The recent demolition of an adjacent building was the first outwardly visible work related to Pitt’s creation of an innovation hub in the historic Ford Motor plant, according to Eli Shorak, vice chancellor, business and real estate, and Joseph Reagan, Wexford Science+Technology’s Northeast Region executive and senior vice president:

Since last year, Pitt representatives, with support from Wexford, have been talking to community groups, UPMC researchers and others locally and nationally about becoming tenants in the building. with support from Wexford,

The renovations and construction, which Wexford is overseeing, started in early summer with the building opening now scheduled for late 2021. The building is being designed to be a world-class space for researchers, including some from UPMC’s Immune Transplant and Therapy Center. 

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at suejones@pitt.edu or 412-648-4294.


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