By SUSAN JONES
When the pandemic shut down most operations at Pitt last year, it also slowed down some ambitious construction projects the University was planning.
“We're working really hard to move out from under the COVID pause that we had put on all projects,” said David DeJong, senior vice chancellor for Business & Operations. “We're back in full blown planning mode.”
One priority, DeJong said, is Victory Heights, the $250 million athletic facilities project that was announced in January 2020. The original plan called for a 3,500-seat arena for gymnastics, volleyball and wrestling to be built in the lawn area next to the Petersen Events Center; an indoor track and field area and space for the Pitt band to practice, along with the dance and cheer squads, where the Pitt Sports Dome is now; and a lacrosse venue, next to the Petersen Sport Complex, where the OC parking lot is located.
At the time of the announcement, Athletic Director Heather Lyke said the design process would start immediately with construction starting in summer 2021. No new target dates have been announced.
“While we have not yet developed a specific timeline for each project included in the Victory Heights program, the University-wide pause on all projects implemented as part of our response to the COVID pandemic certainly included the Victory Heights projects as well,” DeJong said. “As the pause is being lifted, we are now in the process of reaffirming priorities and moving towards nailing down project scopes and schedules.”
Other construction priorities include the new rec center planned for the hillside above O’Hara Street and new housing on upper campus. “We're working to get back into design mode,” DeJong said.
Just last week, staff from the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC) finished moving from their O’Hara Street building to the Murdoch Building on Forbes Avenue, he said. The LRDC building and O’Hara Garage are slated to be demolished to make way for the new rec center. The demolition originally was supposed to take place after commencement in spring 2020, but now will probably happen later this year.
DeJong gave a couple more updates for the spring semester:
The building safety concierge stations are once again mostly staffed by student workers. As announced earlier, if someone who has not gone through the protocols to get building access swipes their Pitt ID, an audible alert will go off and they will not be allowed to enter the building. The alert is a fairly gentle tone, which can be heard here.
The Cathedral Commons is open this semester for students to study in. It was closed in the fall because the air handling wasn’t up to CDC standards, DeJong said. Now there is a system that brings outside air down through the chimneys and into the Commons area.
The area for surveillance testing for COVID-19 has been moved inside of Posvar Hall. Those who get notices to be tested should enter from the Schenley Drive side of the building.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-244-4042.
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