University’s Institutional Master Plan predicts 5 to 10 percent growth

Rendering of proposed development


Pitt gave the first of three briefings on its Institutional Master Plan to the Pittsburgh Planning Commission on Feb. 22, focusing mostly on an overview of the University’s plans for the next 10 to 25 years and its sustainability efforts.

Owen Cooks, assistant vice chancellor for planning, design and real estate, said the broad goals of the IMP are to provide for flexible growth, support the student experience and identify opportunities for neighborhood enhancement.

The Institutional Master Plan — required by the city of Pittsburgh — is a more detailed version of Pitt’s draft campus master plan, which was released in October 2018 after more than a year of input from Pitt faculty, students and staff as well as local community members and partners. The IMP provides details related to city regulations, including building height and mass, parking, urban design and neighborhood compatibility. Pitt held several community meetings about the plan in 2019. The presentation to the Planning Commission was delayed because of the pandemic.

Pitt is anticipating 5 to 10 percent growth in the next 10 years, which will lead to a greater need for student housing. The plan calls for 2,400 new beds, along with the removal of 1,625 others, with a net increase of 775 beds.

What there won’t be an increase in are parking spaces, Cooks said. The plan calls for encouraging a decrease in travel by single-occupancy vehicles and providing more bike facilities throughout the Oakland campus. The University also doesn’t expect any change in peak hour congestion at key intersections in Oakland.

On the sustainability front, Cooks said Pitt has goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from travel by 50 percent below the 2013 baseline, expanding the composting program to 50 percent by 2025, reducing landfill waste by 25 percent, procuring 50 percent of Pitt’s energy from renewables and achieving energy use intensity 50 percent below the national average.

The existing tree canopy coverage on campus is about 16.8 percent, Cooks said, and the goal is to increase that 4 percent. The hillsides will see more sustainable plantings with native species.

Stormwater retention also is a key goal for Pitt. This involves reducing or replacing impervious surfaces, adding green roofs, rain gardens and bioswales and cisterns for water reclamation, plus subsurface detention tanks and porous paving where appropriate.

“Our overall goal is to look at how as we collect that water coming down the hillside,” said Beth McGrew, associate vice chancellor, Planning, Design and Real Estate. “We can contribute in a positive manner to the neighborhood's below by retaining and detaining some of that water and we're using it in our Posvar chilled water plant.”

The University will give two more presentations on its 10-year development plan at the March 9 and 23 Planning Commission meetings. These hearings will address specific projects, some of which are listed below.

Commission Chairwoman Christine Mondor said she would like Pitt to speak at the coming hearings on how its master plan plays into a “shared visions for Oakland” in line with other stakeholders in the area, such as Carlow and Carnegie Mellon universities and UPMC.

A hearing on the plan is tentatively scheduled for April 20. The briefings and hearings are open for anyone to watch on the Pittsburgh City Planning YouTube page.

Master Plan projects

The updated Institutional Master Plan is available of the Facilities Management website. It lists several areas where Pitt hopes to put new buildings or improve others.

Crabtree Hall redevelopment: The existing Crabtree Hall is located at a nexus of the campus with a significant amount of pedestrian activity. The redevelopment of Crabtree Hall presents a unique opportunity to connect UPMC, health sciences schools, the School of Engineering, and other academic functions along O’Hara Street. Redevelopment of Crabtree Hall could include program space for Nursing, Pharmacy, Dentistry, SHRS and GSPH.

Fitzgerald Field House: When the proposed athletic building projects are completed, the Fitzgerald Field House will no longer be needed for its current purpose. The site provides an opportunity for future academic programs, athletics programs, student housing and parking.

Forbes-Craig apartments: The existing apartments may be renovated, converted to a hotel, or redeveloped.

Frick Fine Arts Expansion: The existing Frick Fine Arts building suffers from overcrowding and insufficient studio space for the Department of Studio Arts, History of Art and Architecture, and University Arts Gallery. An addition to the studio, located to the south of the existing building, will provide additional office space, improve daylight for studio spaces, and make space available in the original building for a more spacious presentation of the University’s permanent art collection.

Hillman Library: The existing elevated plaza at Hillman Library separates the activity on the ground floor from the street. An addition at the corner of Schenley Drive and Forbes Avenue has the potential to engage the street with transparent program elements, forming a terminus to the Schenley Park pedestrian plaza. This intersection is identified as a Campus Arrival Point and development on this site could be iconic to identify the campus threshold.

Information Sciences Center: This building on North Bellefield currently houses the School of Computing and Information. The building is in poor condition and should be evaluated to determine whether it can be renovated to meet the University’s programmatic requirements.

Integrated Health Sciences Complex: One of the largest sites for health sciences redevelopment is Lothrop Hall, combined with Falk Clinic. This site is prime real estate along Fifth Avenue and has the potential for increased density in response to the scale of the planned UPMC Heart and Transplant Hospital. Furthermore, the Integrated Health Sciences Complex, which could include Nursing, Pharmacy, Dentistry, SHRS, and GSPH, can help facilitate an enclosed east-west connection between Victoria Hall, UPMC Presbyterian, Crabtree Hall and Benedum Hall.

Lower Hillside Housing: The Campus Master Plan proposes approximately 600 beds north of O’Hara Street in proximity to the engineering and sciences academic node and adjacent to the proposed Recreation and Wellness Center.

Music Building: The University is committed to maintaining the original Romanesque sandstone building constructed in 1884 and currently used as the Music Building. Development on the site of the 1920 annex building may be considered.

OC Lot: The Center for Athletic Performance may be located on the OC Lot. This facility is planned to feature a re-configurable arena for volleyball, wrestling and gymnastics; athletics flex space; and a centralized facility for training student-athletes. Development on this site may include an indoor 200- or 300-meter track that meets NCAA standards and provides an additional, shared flex field.

O’Hara Student Center: New academic space will be developed along O’Hara Street and Thackeray Avenue. The new development may replace or expand the existing Gardner Steel Conference Center and the O’Hara Student Center. Renovations have removed many character defining features, the buildings are not energy efficient, and they are not well suited to their existing or future University uses. Since this site is in the Oakland Civic Center Historic District, demolition and/or new construction will require city Historic Review Commission approval.

One Bigelow: This development is intended to be a transformative academic facility that may house the new School of Computing and Information and MOMACS Institute as well as innovation and collaborative research and teaching spaces. The One Bigelow development may incorporate a central open space, facilitating connections from the future Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) station (on the corner of Fifth and Tennyson Avenue) to the central and upper portions of the campus. Development on this site also may accommodate an underground parking garage.

Petersen bowl: The bowl that remains from the demolition of Pitt Stadium is a natural location for development to complement the Petersen Events Center. Programmatic use of this site has not been determined but may include a multi-functional recreation or athletic facility.

Petersen Sports Complex: The complex is a dedicated athletic facility and includes softball, baseball, and soccer facilities. The existing Petersen Sports Complex has several immediate deficiencies including a lack of office space, locker rooms, and weight training spaces. Medium term needs include larger bullpens and dugouts, indoor batting cages, hospitality suites, and premium seating. These shortcomings can be address by new buildings and additions to existing facilities.

Playing field site: The Master Plan envisions a soccer field and 400-meter track to be placed where the current Pitt Sports Dome is located. The University plans to construct a new chiller plant in the portion of the site adjacent to Cost Sports Center.

Posvar Hall: Additional classroom and administrative space for Social Sciences programs, the School of Education, or the Business School could be accommodated in an expansion on the western facade of Posvar Hall, replacing the under-utilized hardscaped plaza.

Recreation Center: In place of the O’Hara Garage and the LRDC building, the Recreation and Wellness Center will integrate recreation, fitness, student life and academic spaces.

Ruskin Hall surface parking lot: The Campus Master Plan identifies this site as new development of residences. The maximum height will match Ruskin Hall at the north boundary of the site.

Scaife Hall expansion: An addition to the west wing of Scaife Hall, along with the ongoing renovation of the building, is a critical development for the School of Medicine and Pitt Health Sciences.

Trees Hall: In the short term, an expansion to Trees Hall’s pool facilities is planned to accommodate a new diving well and bleachers that meet NCAA standards. In the long term, the Health and Physical Education Department and gymnastics training facilities, currently housed in Trees Hall, will be relocated with the planned construction of the Center for Athletic Performance and the expansion of Posvar Hall. At that time, the eastern portion of Trees Hall may be demolished to accommodate future athletics or recreation facilities.

University Club: The existing CB lot may be replaced with an expansion of the University Club, to provide for additional banquet space and conference facilities.

Victoria Hall redevelopment: Victoria Hall has long been planned for renovation and expansion which could include Nursing, Pharmacy, Dentistry, SHRS, and GSPH. The Campus Master Plan proposes the renovation of the building and a new front door and vertical connection along Lothrop Street. The redevelopment of Lothrop Hall should be coordinated with the Victoria Hall renovation and redevelopment; especially the bridge connection across Lothrop Street as there is significant opportunity to better connect the health sciences.

Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic expansion: The proposed expansion of WPIC is to the north of the inpatient hospital, also known as Thomas Detre Hall. The expansion replaces the small garage between Detre Hall and the Petersen Events Center. The WPIC expansion, along with additional on-site clinic space, will replace spaces WPIC currently leases in the Forbes Building. This redevelopment will likely be a joint partnership with UPMC.

Buildings listed as inefficient and past useful life:

  • Croatian Fraternal Union Building: Built in 1928, it is a three-story office building currently is unoccupied. The building’s terra cotta facade along Forbes Avenue is being evaluated as having historic significance.

  • Forbes Pavilion: This six-story University residence hall houses 232 primarily first-year students. The University acquired and renovated the property in 1978.

  • Franklin Complex: This refers to the collection of six small brick apartment buildings built in the 1930s, and three detached rowhouses (converted to apartments) built in 1913, which the University purchased these buildings in 1971. Most buildings in the Franklin Complex are of low material condition and will require replacement in the coming years.

  • Oakwood Apartments: The three-story building features 20 furnished double and triple bedroom units. Built in 1945 as a privately owned apartment building, it was purchased by the University in 1971.

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


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