Board committee approves major construction projects

By Vaibhav Gupta, Staff Writer

At a public meeting in Posvar Hall Thursday morning, the property and facilities committee of Pitt’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved several major leases and construction projects, a major step in starting to turn the campus master plan into reality.

The University, with City support, will reconfigure Bigelow Boulevard between Forbes and Fifth avenues to improve pedestrian and bike safety, as well as refurbish aging utility infrastructure. A new sidewalk cutout will be constructed as a stop for Pitt shuttles, as well as new bike lanes and curtailed parking spaces. The project will cost about $23.7 million, a significant increase from an April estimate of $4.5 million. Pitt will bear the majority of the cost, besides a $1 million state grant. Construction will last from this November until August 2020.

Mavis Rainey, executive director of the Oakland Transportation Management Association, said improving a major road like Bigelow will provide benefits for all types of Oakland residents.

“Bigelow Boulevard is a major throughway for pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders and motorists,” Rainey said in a press release. “The planned multimodal improvements will enhance the safety of the street, making it more accommodating for all users, including those needing accessible parking for shuttle and individual pick-ups and drop-offs.”

While construction is taking place, the street will be closed to vehicle traffic and pedestrians. Greg Scott, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for business and operations, said Pitt shuttles that operate along the street will face service changes during the construction.

As part of the project, the William Pitt Union’s driveway will also be removed in favor of a space dedicated to pedestrians.

Mary Beth McGrew, Pitt’s assistant vice chancellor of campus planning, said the Bigelow project will create a campus that is more navigable and better connected.

“This project will fulfill a long-term goal of connecting the Cathedral of Learning with the center of student life on campus,” McGrew said in a press release. “Simultaneously, working through all these improvements will mean a more efficient project with less disruption.”

The committee also approved the construction of an 104,800-square-foot, seven-story addition to modernize Scaife Hall, the home of Pitt’s School of Medicine. The building’s current auditorium, located at the corner of Terrace and Lothrop streets, will be demolished and replaced with a new 600-seat lecture auditorium. New classrooms, teaching laboratories, a simulation center and an anatomy laboratory will also be in the addition. The project, which is expected to cost $120 million, will be under construction starting this August until December 2021.

In addition, Pitt will replace the 10,000-ton cooling tower at the Thomas E. Starzl Biomedical Science Tower with a new 15,000-ton unit. The new unit will be installed between this July and next April and will cost $5.5 million, with the expected benefits of increased capacity, operational flexibility and increased reliability for the buildings served by the cooling tower.

The committee also unanimously approved two leases for additional University office space.

The University will lease about 30,000 square feet of space in the former Pittsburgh Athletic Association building, located at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Bigelow Boulevard. The 15-year lease will begin in June 2020 with an annual rent of $1,198,900.


This space will be used, in part, for the Learning Research and Development Center, which is moving from its current location on O’Hara Street due to the construction of a new recreation center.

Pitt will also lease about 12,000 square feet of space for the School of Medicine in the Riviera Building, located on the banks of the Monongahela River near the Bridgeside II complex. The 15-year lease will begin next January with an annual cost of $645,216, but the University plans to spend $8,797,452 to improve the facility. The University said the new space will allow for expansion of the School of Medicine’s Immunologic Monitoring and Cellular Products Laboratory.