By SUSAN JONES
As Pitt starts to take the first steps in the Campus Master Plan, Kevin Sheehy, assistant vice chancellor of Auxiliary Operations and Finance, knows that parking continues to be a big concern.
At the Oct. 21 meeting of the Senate’s Plant Utilization and Planning Committee, Sheehy discussed parking issues that are likely to arise in the coming year.
First up is the closure of the lot behind Eberly Hall on Nov. 18. Sheehy said the 65 permit holders who use that lot have been contacted individually and a plan is in place to relocate them, although they don’t get to choose their new spot. The majority will be moved to the Soldiers & Sailors garage.
This move will give the parking office just a small taste of the issues they’ll have to deal with next year when the 330 permit holders in the O’Hara Garage need to be relocated. The garage is the site of the planned new rec center.
“Regardless of any scenario we couldn’t keep using O’Hara,” said Scott Bernotas, associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management. “We’re spending a whole lot of money just to keep it operational.”
Sheehy said that no new permits have been issued for several key lots for six months, anticipating the need to relocate the cars in O’Hara. Communications with permit holders will begin in mid- to late November to prepare for the garage’s closure on May 1, 2020.
One idea being explored is “stacking” vehicles in the Soldiers & Sailors Garage, where drivers could block in other vehicles and then leave their keys in their cars. Attendants would then be patrolling the garage and would move cars as needed.
The current plan is to start the stacked parking on the fourth floor and part of the third, as needed, but to keep the first and second floors available for public parking. Sheehy said there has been some realigning of spaces to create about 50 more parking spots.
“We feel comfortable we're able to absorb those people on core campus,” he said. “You may have to be part of the stacking, which is going to be a cultural change on this campus, leaving my keys in my vehicle. It's OK; it happens everywhere else in the city.
“It's a way to give us additional parking spaces without having lines on the ground,” Sheehy said. “That's how we're trying to balance some of this public parking.”
He said the Soldiers & Sailors Garage is particularly busy on days the Office of Admissions has events, but he said on other days many of those taking the “public” spots are employees who don’t have parking permits.
Another possible way to gain more spaces is to relocate cars of students who park in campus lots, but only move their vehicle once or twice a semester. Sheehy said he met with members of the Student Government Board and they seemed amenable to this idea.
A lot on Mead Street, near the library’s Thomas Boulevard storage facility, could be used for student cars and for employees who don’t have permits, Sheehy said. A shuttle currently travels to Thomas Boulevard, but it would have to run more frequently, and a security guard might be added to patrol the lot.
Several University vehicles, including Facilities Management’s new electric box trucks, park in the Mead Street lot, Sheehy said, and they haven’t had any problems there.
There also are several other University lots, such as Posvar and the OC Lot, that could be stacked with cars, he said. They’ve also looked at a portable decking system — “where they'll come in and, within a couple of days, they build levels of garages that you can put up, tear down, move, do everything” — or a lift system like you see in cities like New York, where cars are stacked on top of each other.
“Greg Scott has really challenged my group to be very creative,” Sheehy said. “We’re looking at everything … No idea is too crazy right now.”
Introducing the planning department
Also giving a presentation to the committee was Mary Beth McGrew, who joined the University in April as assistant vice chancellor for planning.
Since arriving at Pitt, McGrew has been putting together a planning office, which includes the University architect and interior designer, along with other planning, design and real estate experts.
McGrew discussed several of the new trends and technologies that universities need to be prepared for, such as online lectures, blended courses and personalized education.
“I like to think that part of our integrated planning is how we build our relationships and how we align our organization and how we get ourselves in a state of preparedness for change, because, whether we like it, change is constant,” she said.
She also said that the final draft of the Institutional Master Plan, which Pitt must submit to the city for approval, is now online and open for public comment. The final public meeting on the plan will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at 294 Semple St. The IMP will then be submitted to the city planning commission and city council, which are expected to act on it by January.
McGrew also discussed an as-yet-unapproved idea to develop the hillside above the new rec center to have “social spaces that are like opera boxes where active communication ensues.” These areas would be places for humans and ecology to coexist, points of respite from the intensity of the urban area and outdoor rooms to take in the view.
The idea would be to connect upper and lower campus with more than just stairs. It also could create another gathering area like Schenley Plaza.
The rec center itself also will serve as a connector. Express elevators, large enough to hold bikes, are planned to help the 1,500 students who live on upper campus get back and forth more easily.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-648-4294.
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