Property watch: Pitt to spend $18.8 million on chilled water plant upgrades


The Board of Trustees Property and Facilities committee on Sept. 13 approved $18.8 million for necessary upgrades to the Posvar chilled water plant.

The project will include:

  • Renovation and upgrades to three of the existing cooling towers.

  • Purchase of two new 2,250 ton chillers

  • Installation of new underground chilled water distribution and storm water piping with connection to new piping installed as part of the Bigelow Boulevard renovation project

  • Installation of a 250,000 gallon underground stormwater collection tank.

“This work is required to support campus growth, address aging equipment, and expand and upgrade the campus chilled water distribution systems,” David DeJong, senior vice chancellor for business and operations, told the committee. “The new stormwater tank and distribution piping will capture and reuse stormwater to reduce the University's impact on the city's stormwater infrastructure.”

The chilled water plant located in Posvar Hall provides the cooling requirements for the majority of buildings on the lower and mid-campus, including student housing and dining, classroom facilities, administrative and faculty offices, and research and instructional laboratories. It was constructed in 1978 and has undergone various upgrades and equipment replacements over the years. To support current and future campus demand and address aging equipment, the plant requires capacity and distribution system expansion and upgrades.

The work is scheduled to start in October and last until spring 2024. Access to Hillman Library and Posvar Hall will be maintained, and parking at Posvar garage should be unaffected. Project logistics along the street and construction planning are in progress, and Facilities Management hopes to minimize traffic impacts.

Pitt development plans

At a Sept. 12 development activities meeting hosted by Oakland Planning and Development Corp. and Oakland Business Improvement District, Pitt officials outlined plans for the exterior of Hillman Library and a new arena and sports performance center next to the Petersen Events Center.


Hillman Library entrance: At the library, a new, glass entryway at the corner of Forbes Avenue and Schenley Drive is planned during Phase IV of the overall renovation of Hillman, which also will include the ground floor and the center of the building where the elevators and bathrooms are. Work on the third and fourth floors is completed and construction is ongoing on the first and second floors.

The new entry will have a volume of just over 1,000 square feet. It will be around 50 feet tall, while the overall building is just over 90 feet high. The design is supposed to “mimic a stacking of books going up to each level,” said Charles Alcorn, a planner in Pitt’s Office of Planning, Design, Real Estate, who gave the presentation at the meeting.

The plan involves eliminating the main staircase on the Schenley Drive side and the two “moats” on either side of it. The new entry space will be over the moat closest to Forbes Avenue and an outdoor terrace will be built on the other side. The entry also will have a green roof with an outdoor gathering space. The ground floor entrance on Schenley Drive will be ADA accessible as will a ramp off of Forbes Avenue.

The footprint of the library will not grow, but the façade will be closer to the sidewalk. The new entry will not extend past the current plaza. The work also will include sidewalk improvements around the library, which Pitt will propose under a different application to the city.

Pitt hopes to begin construction in January 2023 and last until April 2024. The already completed floors of the library will remain open during construction.

The bus stop on the Forbes Avenue side of the building will probably be relocated to in front of Schenley Plaza, Alcorn said. It will need to be coordinated with the city and Pittsburgh Regional Transit, which was already planning to move the stop as part of the Bus Rapid Transit system project.

Arena and sports performance center rendering

Arena and Sports Performance Center: Alcorn also gave details on the new Arena and Sports Performance Center, part of Pitt Athletics’ Victory Heights project. The building, in the bowl where Pitt Stadium once stood, is planned at 240,483 square feet with a primary roof height of 38 feet from Allequippa Street.

The taller part of the building will be on the upper side of the bowl. The lower portion will have a green roof with walking and seating areas, as well as a separate green space that won’t be open to people.

Steps will connect Terrace and Allequippa streets and will lead to several different building entrances on the site. It ties into development on the hillside of green pathways.

Alcorn said most of the activities that now take place at Fitzgerald Field House will be moved to the new facility. Fitzgerald has seating capacity of 4,100 and the new arena seats 2,500.

The zoning application for this project also will include addressing street improvements and potential modifications to Allequippa Street, he said.

Major excavation will begin in December 2022 and completion is estimated in August 2025. The project will cost more than $200 million.

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


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