Spire on Heinz Chapel to be rebuilt inside and out


David DeJong, senior vice chancellor for business & operations, gave an update on capital projects for fiscal year 2021-22 during the Oct. 18 Plant Utilization and Planning committee meeting, including many previously announced projects.

The Oakland campus will see one highly visible project starting at the beginning of November — work to repair the Heinz Chapel spire.

Scott Bernotas, vice chancellor of facilities management, said scaffolding will start to go up Nov. 9 around the outside of the spire to allow experts to determine exactly what needs to be done. But he said they already know that the spire needs to be rebuilt inside and outside. The full project will take more than a year.

New rec center

Renderings of wellness center

Construction will start next year on the new recreation and wellness center, which will be located where the O’Hara Garage and LRDC building were. The garage has already been torn down and the work to remove the LRDC building is expected to be done by the end of December. Construction is schedule to start in summer 2022 and be completed by fall 2024.

DeJong shared renderings of what the building will look like. The rec center will be nine stories with 270,000 square feet. It will contain gymnasiums, fitness areas, an aquatic center, running tracks, a wellness suite, racquetball/squash courts and a dining area focused on healthy eating.

The center will be open to faculty and staff through a membership fee, DeJong said. The bulk of the cost of the center will be covered by student health and wellness fees. “The reason it’ll be open on a membership basis is that if the students are paying for access and use, we feel, from an equity standpoint, we’ll be doing that for faculty and staff as well,” DeJong said.

The fitness facility in the University Club also will still be available to faculty and staff for a fee.

Recent acquisitions

DeJong also discussed property that the University has purchased recently, including the row of condemned townhouses on Bates Street. Walnut Capital initially bought the site and did the demolition of the buildings, but Pitt has now fully purchased the space. It is close to the Quality Inn site on the Boulevard of the Allies that Pitt plans to develop into non-student housing with a grocery store.

“We are very much interested in that project in enhancing the community,” DeJong said. “And we are in active discussions with various community organizations to hear their hopes and priorities.”

He noted that Walnut Capital has been getting attention lately for its broader Oakland Crossings project, which would  be a complete makeover of 17 acres of South Oakland, mostly along Halket Street and McKee Place. New, taller housing units would replace the single-family homes that now house mostly groups of students.

Neighborhood groups have voiced strong opposition to the Walnut Capital plan, not just because of the proposed construction but also because they feel the company circumvented normal procedures to bring a proposal for a new zoning district that encompasses the project before Pittsburgh City Council. On Wednesday, City Council voted to send an amended version of the zoning change to the Planning Commission. The amendments included limiting the height of buildings to 60 to 90 feet or 108 to 160 feet with LEED bonuses and requiring at least 10 percent of the units to be walk-to-work housing, where rent will not exceed 30 percent of the tenant’s gross income.

DeJong said Pitt’s narrow plans with Walnut Capital around the Bates Street and Quality Inn sites “do focus on a grocery store and more dense living. We’re hoping that will lead to more opportunities for faculty and staff to be able to walk to work.”

He said Pitt’s plans will not be impacted by Walnut Capital’s efforts to get the broader zoning change.

Pitt also purchased a lot on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Halket Street. DeJong said they have no specific plans for that space, but “we know that we have significant programmatic needs.”

Other projects

Upper campus chilled water and distribution plant: This facility near the Pitt Sports Dome will  allow for more capacity to support new buildings like the rec center. It also builds in redundancy. DeJong said this project is helping drive Pitt’s “diversity in construction and professional services initiatives.” Bernotas said 39 percent of the construction project was awarded to minority- and women-owned businesses. Construction started this month and will go through December 2023.

Hillman Library, phase 3: Construction started this summer on the first and second floors, including replacing the perimeter windows and building a ramp from Forbes Avenue. The project is slated for completion in September  2022. Phase 4 — the ground floor — should start in December 2022.

Bradford engineering building: The new facility on the Bradford campus to support new engineering programs is under construction now and should be done in February 2023.

Greensburg life sciences building: This project, largely driven by the increased enrollment of nursing students, is also underway. The 32,000-square-foot, two-story structure should by done by November 2022.

Multiple façade repairs: Loose exterior stones are being replaced on several buildings, including Alumni Hall and the Parkvale building.

Annual classroom renovations: Greg Smith, capital projects and physical resources manager in the provost’s office, said the focus this fiscal year is the classrooms on the second floor of the Cathedral of Learning, with some being renovated this year and some the next. There also are two classrooms on the second floor of Langley Hall scheduled for renovation.

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


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