Community members discuss proposed CMU construction projects


Zoom screenshot

The Oakland Planning and Development Corp. held its monthly meeting on Tuesday night via Zoom.

By Kiera Ledermann, Staff Writer

Carnegie Mellon University has several ideas for a renewed Institutional Master Plan, which directs campus growth, according to Bob Reppe, the senior director of planning and design at CMU. He said some of the ideas include new buildings at the core of campus and possibly a pedestrian bridge.

“We have been working for the last eight months, doing internal thinking, working with the university of leadership, doing assessments of needs, analyzing what we’ve been doing under our last master plan and starting to put together an introduction to where we’re going with our master plan,” Reppe said.

Reppe discussed new plans for CMU’s campus at the Oakland Planning and Development Corp.’s Tuesday evening meeting hosted via Zoom. The meeting also included information about alterations to Schenley Park and a housing development in Oakland.

Pittsburgh City Council adopted CMU’s current Institutional Master Plan in 2012, with amendments in 2015 and 2019. Reppe said since CMU released this plan in 2012, there has since been a lot of construction at and around its campus. Some of these projects, he said, include the Tepper School of Business, new housing projects on Fifth Avenue and projects at the university’s College of Engineering.

Reppe said the new IMP would develop half a dozen “key academic sites” at the core of campus. Other ideas for the campus include moving the facilities building along the railroad and “reevaluating the future of” Warner and Donner halls in favor of constructing buildings with higher densities, he said.

Reppe said an increase in the graduate student population at CMU is one of the reasons the university needs an updated IMP.

“Our graduate student population has more than doubled in the last 20 years,” Reppe said. “This has different impacts on space for our campus that undergraduate growth would have.”

Reppe also said the new plan includes making improvements to Craig Street. He said his team has several ideas to make Craig Street more accessible, such as widening existing sidewalks or building a pedestrian bridge that would connect the center of campus to Craig Street.

He added that his team plans to work with the property and business owners in the street’s business district, as well as the City to “steal back unused urban spaces” and expand outdoor seating for restaurants.

“Craig Street, as I mentioned earlier, is one of these streets that we would really like to think about being a great college street, a great urban asset to the City of Pittsburgh,” Reppe said. “It’s something that can be done with a lot of good work with our partners on Craig Street.”

Reppe said the plan will also include alterations to Schenley Park, which are long overdue.

“For the first 100 years of the university’s existence, Carnegie Mellon was a much more insular, maybe cloistered-type university. In the last 15, 20 years, there’s been really kind of wanting to embrace the public, important role of the university in the City of Pittsburgh,” Reppe said. “Now we want to start to look at Schenley Park. We’re bound up against 45 acres of an incredible park, which now, you’ll see in some images coming up, could be a lot better.”

Embracing this “public, important role,” Reppe said, would possibly involve “selectively replanting” trees in the park and building a staircase on Flagstaff Hill that would connect the park directly to campus.

Ralph Horgan, the vice president of campus design and facility development at CMU, said the ideas for the IMP align with those of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, which already has plans to redesign parts of Schenley Park.

“It’s really symbiotic, between what we want to see and what they want to see in all of these meetings that we have had with them,” Horgan said. “It has been an incredible, serendipitous connection.”

Wanda Wilson, the executive director of OPDC, delivered updates on other local projects. She said the Frazier North Residences — a construction development on South Oakland’s Frazier Street — will be built and put on the market by the end of this year. This development includes four new, energy-efficient, single-family houses as part of the Oakland Community Land Trust, according to OPDC’s website.

Besides the new buildings, Wilson said new blue recycling bins are coming to Oakland this spring, and to check the City’s website to find out when they will be delivered.

Wilson also brought attention to several local community efforts such as Adopt-a-Block on April 17 as well as the Community Land Trust, which will give existing homeowners the opportunity to get resources to improve their homes. Wilson said the program does have income qualifications, but to contact the OPDC for more information.

“You’ll see Adopt-a-Block volunteers out on Saturday, April 17, so we encourage people to join that effort, but if you see that group out there on your street please say hello to them and thank them for the cleanup efforts that they’ve been doing,” Wilson said.