University approves residence hall renovation, expansion

By Gretchen Andersen

Pitt will add dormitory space to Lothrop Hall and Bouquet Gardens, as well as fund a… Pitt will add dormitory space to Lothrop Hall and Bouquet Gardens, as well as fund a renovation project in the William Pitt Union. Some phases of the project will be completed by 2011.

The Property and Facilities Committee of the Board of Trustees approved $46 million for construction and renovation projects Wednesday, $15 million of which comes from the stimulus package. The plan also includes money for new laboratories and building projects at Pitt’s regional campuses.

The housing expansion projects are part of the University’s effort to cater to a “strong” demand for on-campus undergraduate student housing, according to the meeting’s agenda. Pitt currently offers guaranteed housing to half of the undergraduate population — students are no longer guaranteed after their freshman and sophomore years, University spokesman John Fedele said.

He said the projects will not allow for three years of guaranteed housing, but that they will “provide more flexibilities for transfer students.”

The dormitory expansion projects will add 47 new beds to Lothrop Hall’s first floor, which used to house office space for UPMC. This space will be transformed into additional undergraduate housing consistent with the style of the other dorms.

Lothrop Hall now houses 676 students. According to the agenda, the project also includes expansion of existing bathrooms to “accommodate shower facilities, new finishes and fixtures,” as well as a new study lounge, wireless internet access and “improved security.”

Pitt will use the property at 315 Oakland Ave. for the Bouquet Gardens expansion. Currently, those residences house 496 students, and the project will increase capacity by 150 to 200 by August 2011, the expected occupancy date.

The University also plans to construct a new dorm that will be nine to 11 stories and will create 500 new beds, Executive Vice Chancellor Jerome Cochran said.

“We are still in a design stage,” Cochran said. “There is no project start date, but the location will be below the University Club, across Fifth Avenue from Towers.”

The Lothrop Hall expansion will cost $1.56 million, whereas the Bouquet Gardens project will cost $2.8 million. The money for those projects will come from auxillary reserves and auxillary debt, parts of the budget generally reserved for housing and food services.

The funds approved for the Union project will be used to renovate the ninth floor. According to the agenda, the plans include a new student study area and lounge, offices for Residence Life, Pitt Arts and a chaplain, a 20-person conference room, a kitchen and storage areas. New energy-efficient lighting will be installed, and the heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems will be upgraded.

“Both formal and informal feedback from the students consistently shows that students’ primary need … is for more meeting room space, including larger venues, multi-use space and improved technology,” the agenda says. The project will cost $2 million.

The approved funds also include $28.2 million for the “Mid-campus Complex Renovations, Phase Two” project. This will build or renovate 13 experimental physics laboratories for the Department of Physics and Astronomy, mostly in Allen Hall, the Nuclear Physics Laboratory and Old Engineering Hall.

A $15 million construction grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will go toward the $28.2 million project. Provost Reserves — part of the budget generally reserved for the provost’s projects, such as painting classrooms or maintaining buildings — will provide the remaining $13.2 million.

The $15 million of stimulus money “allowed for the project to move faster than a year,” Cochran said.

He said the approved projects prove the economy is in a “good climate.”

“Right now, it is a buyer’s market,” Cochran said.

The newly approved projects are expected to create 248 construction and 99 construction-support jobs.

In regard to the start dates of these projects, Cochran said, “We are moving forward as we speak.”

Other projects approved by the committee include:

-$1.6 million to replace air-handling units in the Ashe Auditorium, part of the Chevron Science Center

-$1.9 million for a new greenhouse on the sixth-level roof of Langley Hall for the Department of Biological Sciences

-$2 million to upgrade the mechanical system infrastructure of Smith Hall, a building at Pitt’s Greensburg campus

-$5.9 million to upgrade the chemistry and biology laboratories in Fisher Hall, a building at the Bradford campus