WHAT’S NEW: Salk Hall project wrapping up as Hillman moves to phase 3

Women's bathroom in Cathedral


Those returning to Pitt’s campuses this fall for the first time in months can expect both visible and more subtle changes in University facilities, including a sprucing up to the Panther on the William Pitt Union grounds.

The pavers and landscaping around the Panther have been updated and it “looks really sharp now,” said Scott Bernotas, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management

Bernotas also is excited about work on a new chilled water plant behind the Cost Sports Center, which will will connect to the Petersen plant network to support growth on the upper and mid-campus, including the new Recreation and Wellness Center, Victory Heights and more. What he’s most pleased about is that 39 percent of the construction value has been awarded to local minority- and women-owned business.

“That was something we worked really hard with the (Hill District) community on,” he said. Contractor Turner/Mosites also is committed to doing training for minority and small contractors and bringing in additional labor from the community. Construction will start in early October.

Here’s a roundup of other recent campus updates:

Salk Hall

The nearly three-year, total renovation of the 80-year-old building, which primarily houses the School of Pharmacy, is in its final stages, Bernotas said.

“We tore the building down to its bones, and took out all the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and replaced with all new,” he said. “We got delayed a little bit by COVID, but we’re able to still wrap up the classrooms on the fourth and fifth floors in time for the start of this fall term. The remaining work is expected to be completed by the end of September, with the exception of the sixth floor east wing (which was added later to the project).”

The $69 million project also included full replacement of the fire suppression systems; exterior renovations including the replacement of all roofs, masonry repairs, partial window replacement and lightning protection; and improvements to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including new restrooms, elevators and modifications to existing stairs.

Salk Hall, built in 1941 and renamed for famed polio researcher Jonas Salk after Pitt purchased the building in 1957, is designated as an historic landmark by the city and the state.

Cathedral of Learning

One of the more dramatic changes has been to the ground floor bathrooms, which have lost that high school locker room feel and been replaced with a clean, bright design. The bathrooms on the second and third floor also were updated.

The ground floor corridors are brighter with new lighting, and Saxbys coffee is set to open in early September to replace Cathedral Coffee.

The Commons Room on the first floor has been open since January with a new HVAC system and lighting.

Hillman Library

The first and second floors are now closed for the third phase of the complete Hillman Library renovation. The work will include renovating 40,000 square feet of space, building a new west stair tower and replacing part of the outside raised plaza along Forbes Avenue to add an accessibility ramp.

Patrons can now only access the building through the ground floor — entering on the left side and exiting on the right. The main stairs in the middle of the building will continue to be open throughout construction.

The Cup & Chaucer café on the ground floor also is becoming a Saxbys and should open in early September.

William Pitt Union

Lounge with couches and tables

The biggest change at the Union is an upgrade to the Tansky Lounge on the first floor. The lounge, which sits next to the glassed-in Lower Lounge, was the original lobby area for the building when it was still a hotel.

The room has new furniture, which can be moved around in different configurations, along with new lighting, dry wall and paint. The marble in the room also was cleaned. “It was really kind of outdated,” Bernotas said. “Now, it’s a place you want to be.”

Other projects

Alan Magee Scaife Hall: Construction continued over the summer on the Scaife Hall west wing addition for the School of Medicine. Lothrop Street remains closed for the foreseeable future because of work on the building. Structural steel continues to go up and should all be in place soon. The anticipated completion of this 113,000-square-foot addition is August 2022. 

Colorful seating

Posvar Hall: The Department of Africana Studies was remodeled on the fourth floor of Posvar Hall, including existing classrooms and offices for department faculty and staff. The remodel also included space reconfiguration and created a new suite for the Quantitative Economics program in the Department of Economics.

Large crane over LRDC building

Recreation and Wellness Center space: The O’Hara Garage was demolished over summer and the LRDC building demolition is underway and due to be completed this October, making way for the new center.

SCI expands: The School of Computing and Information is expanding into leased space on the fifth floor of 130 N. Bellefield St., right across the street from the Information Sciences Building. The new space will includes communal areas and a variety of meeting and office spaces. It is expected to be completed by early next semester.

Pitt–Bradford: The campus broke ground on its $24.5 million, 40,000-square-foot Engineering and Information Technologies building on Aug. 13. The building will be home to the school’s current computer information systems and technology and energy science and technology programs as well as two new engineering technology programs —  mechanical engineering technology and energy engineering technology. It is expected to be completed by next summer.

Rendering of new building

Pitt–Greensburg: Construction began last week on a new building designed to provide state-of-the-art facilities and the necessary space to expand Pitt-Greensburg’s growing science and nursing programs. The new $19.2 million, 32,000-square foot life sciences building will include a clinical lab, simulation suites, telemedicine space, and a computer lab and office suite for the School of Nursing, as well as chemistry and biology labs. The new facility will be connected to Smith Hall, creating a unified Life Sciences Complex. The building is expected to open for the spring 2023 semester.

Old Allegheny Health Department Building: Pitt is waiting on final approvals before it starts demolition on the Forbes Avenue structure, which once housed the Croatian Fraternal Union. In July Mary Beth McGrew, vice chancellor of planning, design and real estate, presented the demolition plan to the Pittsburgh Planning Commission, which would involve preserving the façade to use as a decorative entrance to a new Pitt building. The façade will be dismantled and each piece’s condition and location catalogued. The façade pieces will be packed and stored in a University-owned location. The remaining building, which she said is in a substantial state of disrepair and in imminent danger of collapse, will be demolished. Work is scheduled to begin in late September or early October.

5051 Centre Ave.: Work continues on the new 5051 Centre Ave. project in Bloomfield.  Completion of the buildings core and shell as well as the garage is anticipated in October, with tenant improvements and equipment install continuing through November.Rubble being removed by backhoe

Bates Street townhouses: The 12 abandoned townhouses at 3401 to 3421 Bates St. and at 392 Coltart Ave. have been torn down over the past few weeks by current owner Walnut Capital. In June, Pitt announced it would buy the property after the demolition work is done. No plans have been announced for what Pitt will do with the Bates Street property.

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


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