The Changing Face of Campus in Pittsburgh

Renovation is under way at nearly all of our area colleges and universities. For students heading back to school this fall — and their parents — we offer this crash course on the highlights of these projects and their projected benefits.



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Looking up at the newly remodeled rotunda in West Hall at CCAC-Allegheny Campus. West Hall is being repurposed as the campus Cultural & Fine Arts Center. Originally called Memorial Hall, it was completed in 1912/Photos by Martha rial

 

Pittsburgh has been a center of higher learning since the earliest days of America’s history, and as our city has grown and evolved over the centuries, so too have our many colleges and universities. Yet seldom has so much new growth been so visible on so many of the region’s campuses, sprouting from the midst of construction cranes and scaffolds. The needs of, and opportunities presented by, higher education are much different in 2016 than they were when these institutions were established — and, as evidence of the city’s continued commitment to learning, changes are coming quickly. From the city’s epicenter out into its suburbs, college and university leaders are creating new spaces, reimagining older buildings and developing cutting-edge cooperative hubs where industry, academia and nonprofit organizations come together to innovate.
 


Chef Dean Morris prepares lunch in the teaching kitchen at the Esther Barazzone Center at Chatham University's Eden Hall campus. 

 

While these projects vary widely in scope and specifics, several common threads run through aspects of these varied developments:

  • Flexible use of space with an eye toward the future. New and renovated buildings at many area campuses have moving walls and flexible enclosures that can morph intimate meeting spaces into open performance and event halls at the touch of a button. Students need tech-equipped classrooms for lectures and video conferences, but they also need flexible spaces to collaborate, interact socially and develop innovative projects.
     
  • Ongoing commitment to the environment — often demonstrated by striving for top levels of LEED certification — coupled with an equally deep commitment to preserving historic spaces and honoring Pittsburgh history.
     
  • Clear priorities for real-world work environments and opportunities for increased connections between students and professionals in their fields. Even in our digital world, physical proximity and face-to-face networking still change lives.

That last point may be the one the region’s schools are most powerfully embracing. To capitalize on the “water-cooler effect” that can come only from being in the same building, many local post-secondary institutions have established a presence at the Energy Innovation Center overlooking Downtown from the Lower Hill District.

The center is a LEED Platinum-Certified and Historic Preservation of what formerly was the Connelley Vocational Trade School, where generations of Pittsburgh Public School students came to learn skilled trades. It now brings together educators, private corporations and community-based organizations to pursue next-level energy research, technology development, workforce training and community development.

At institutions elsewhere in western Pennsylvania, numerous ventures also are underway or newly wrapped. Read on to learn more about the highlights and projected benefits these projects aim to provide for current and future students.
 

CARLOW UNIVERSITY

It’s been less than a year since Carlow unveiled the renovation of its 82,500-square-foot, five-story Grace Library building. Completed at a cost of $19.9 million, the project redesigned the space to create the University Commons, a hub of student life and services that has earned Silver LEED certification — a notable accomplishment for a refurbished space originally constructed in 1970.

The old library occupied three full floors. The school’s modern, digital library needs just a little more than one floor (and yes, it’s still stocked with plenty of books), freeing up space for the Rita McGinley Center for Student Success (named for the Carlow alumna from the Class of 1940) and consolidating other student services under one roof. Here, students can get peer tutoring, advanced instruction in writing academic papers and research methods, and additional academic support. One added benefit: That peer support strengthens a sense of community at Carlow, as does the building’s Frank B. Fuhrer Cafe. This flexible space serves as a social area and cafeteria with walls that open to host film screenings, academic talks, student performances and other events.

Also in the building, the Hopkins Communications Lab enables students in any department to create professional-level multimedia presentations or record themselves presenting to an audience, then watch the video to fine-tune their delivery. Group-discussion rooms contain two-way mirrors so faculty members can observe student interaction without interfering with discussions. The school’s career development office, also located within the Commons, can use these studios to hold mock job interviews and post-interview critiques with each student.

With so much flexible multimedia space for students in every major, “We’re only beginning to scratch the surface on what we can use it for,” says Carlow Director of Media Relations Drew Wilson.
 


A contractor walks around the newly restored rotunda at the CCAC -Allegheny Campus.

 

COMMUNITY COLLEGE OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY 

“It’s just a construction site around here,” says Elizabeth Johnston, executive director of public relations and marketing at CCAC, as she offers up a list of recent projects and new ones on the horizon. On the Allegheny Campus in the North Side, the first phase of the Ridge Avenue Revitalization Project is complete; highlights include upgrades to the physical education building that include an enhanced fitness center and student lounge, an expanded bookstore and a new on-campus Starbucks for caffeine-hungry students.

Other renovations include the addition of computer labs as well as the transformation of historic West Hall into a new cultural and fine arts center, scheduled to open this fall. This building offers students expanded space for art, music, speech, language and criminal-justice classes, as well as an art gallery and performance space, pairing modern amenities with preserved architecture honoring Pittsburgh’s past. 

At the school’s South Campus in West Mifflin, a new access road has improved traffic flow and safety, and a new sidewalk and nature trails await students and staff this fall. Meanwhile, classes started in the spring at CCAC’s space within the Energy Innovation Center, a laboratory with an edgy, Warhol-esque design. Hybrid classroom/labs offer credit and noncredit skilled-trade courses, including the study of solar energy systems. Students also can seek networking opportunities with engineering and energy-industry professionals throughout the complex.  

On the horizon: A study is underway to examine the feasibility of creating a new workforce-development center in Donora. CCAC also unveiled design concepts in June for a workforce-development center at the Allegheny Campus that would be unlike anything the school has built. That potential project, at least five years from construction, would offer a variety of options — from STEM classes and welding to an expanded culinary-arts program with a student-run restaurant and greenhouse, plus a multipurpose event space that would take advantage of stunning views from Monument Hill.
 


Crates used for gathering produce rest in front of a hoop house at Chatham University’s Eden Hall campus in Richland Township. Hoop houses can extend crop-growing seasons

 

CHATHAM UNIVERSITY

In April, Chatham completed the first phase of construction of its 388-acre Eden Hall campus in Richland Township with the opening of the Esther Barazzone Center. This 23,000-square-foot multipurpose space, designed to exceed LEED Platinum standards, is the heart of Chatham’s cutting-edge “sustainable campus” and home of the Falk School of Sustainability. It includes a dining hall, a sun-lit commons area and a commercial teaching kitchen. 

This fall, more than 125 students are expected to attend classes and tackle research at the Falk School. They’ll make use of high-tech aquaculture and aquaponics labs, a certified organic farm and root cellar, a demonstration garden and a solar greenhouse, all designed to help students break ground in researching sustainable food production and fishing. And students in the expanding Food Studies program at Eden Hall will go beyond the campus, gaining work experience in the city and the region; past student contributions have included helping the Pittsburgh Public Schools improve school lunches and building a community bread oven in Braddock.

On Chatham’s main campus in Shadyside, work is ongoing to keep up with growth in enrollment since the school switched from all-women to co-ed enrollment at the undergraduate level in 2014. No new construction is underway, but the university continues to renovate existing residence and teaching spaces to accommodate more students.
 


At Carnegie Mellon University, the shadow of a crane overlooks the five-story, 305,000-square-foot Tepper Quadrangle building, scheduled to open in fall 2018.

 

CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY

You’ve probably noticed CMU’s colossal construction site along Forbes Avenue in Oakland, where work is underway on Tepper Quad. (You also can watch developments at this monster construction site via a live webcam at tepper.cmu.edu/who-we-are/tepper-quad/construction-timeline) The quad, when complete, is meant to be a crossroads for the entire campus community, elevating cross-discipline collaboration and increasing opportunities for students to interact with industry leaders and community partners in their chosen fields. At its heart is a 305,000-square-foot building designed to house the Tepper School of Business, the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship and other executive education and technology-enhanced learning initiatives. It also will be home to a planned 600-seat auditorium, a new university welcome center, a fitness center and dining facilities.

The total price tag exceeds $200 million, and the school continues to raise funds in support of this massive project. The current forecast has Tepper Quad complete and ready for students in fall 2018.

In the meantime, students arriving at CMU this semester will find three other developments: The 62,000-square-foot Jared L. Cohon University Center held a soft opening of its new addition in mid-May and plans a grand opening this fall. It offers students improved recreation and creative opportunities through a space for fitness, plus a studio theater available to student groups and small-scale productions.

Work also is completed on Sherman and Joyce Bowie Scott Hall, a 109,000-square-foot building at the College of Engineering that enhances the College of Engineering’s innovation culture and offers students space for interdisciplinary research. Expansion of Hamburg Hall continues, offering Heinz College students a new 150-seat lecture hall. Next steps: flexible classrooms, group and individual study spaces, a glass-enclosed courtyard, student-project rooms and a cafe.
 


Students study Spanish in one of Duquesne University’s new FlexTech classrooms, which use state-of-the-art technology to encourage collaborative learning. The glass tables in the new classrooms can serve as whiteboards.

 

DUQUESNE UNIVERSITY

Duquesne’s innovative FlexTech classrooms recently earned the Harman Innovation Award — honoring innovative use and best practices of audio-visual and information technology at colleges and universities nationwide — at the annual UBTech Conference, which focuses on emerging trends and leaders in higher-education technology. Their design has caught the attention of educators nationwide, who are requesting tours of the cutting-edge classrooms on the campus in the Bluff. In these rooms, groups of four to six students sit in pods at glass-top tables equipped with USB-charging stations, where they can share digital content and connect tablets or laptops to wall-mounted, flat-panel monitors. 

Two more FlexTech classrooms were constructed over the summer, bringing the total in use this fall to seven rooms. At the Energy Innovation Center, Duquesne is among the co-founders of the Citizen Science Lab, which focuses on providing hands-on science for students in local secondary schools who otherwise might not have that opportunity. Although weekend workshops and memberships are open to the entire Pittsburgh community, college students have unlimited access to the lab and can apply for internships to build specific skills.

Military-veteran students will find a newly renovated Veterans Center, thanks to a nearly $7,000 grant from Home Depot and the Students Veterans of America’s nationwide Vet Center Initiative. This networking and study space includes a new computer workstation and a wall-mounted TV equipped for video conferencing; it is intended to serve as a hub for this community of students.
 

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