UPMC working to ease parking expansion worry

| Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010

Faced with neighborhood opposition to employee parking expansion, officials of UPMC Presbyterian-Shadyside hospital met this week with community groups to explain its plans.

Neighborhood groups want the hospital to commit to a master plan that would address a 425-car parking garage at the former Luna Square and eliminate temporary locations.

UPMC purchased the eight-acre Luna site on Baum Boulevard, which originally had been targeted by Kratsa Properties Inc. for a mixed-use development including housing, a hotel, commercial and retail uses and a 2,000-car garage.

"This is the first step in communicating with the neighborhoods, something that hadn't occurred in the past," said Bessie Bean, vice president of Shadyside Action Coalition.

The hospital's off-site parking proposals have been a concerns of that group and Baum-Centre Initiative and Friendship Preservation Group.

The event this week, called the UPMC Shadyside Community Relations Night, was organized by Sean Logan, vice president of community relations at UPMC and a former state senator from Monroeville, and was held at the hospital with about 50 residents attending.

For Janet Agnew, who lives on Woodworth Street, it was an opportunity to learn more about UPMC's plans for its Luna site, which abuts her street. Her house is at the end of Woodworth, a one-lane street, she said.

In an effort to deflate controversy that has developed with community groups representing Shadyside, Bloomfield, Friendship, Oakland and East Liberty, hospital officials said before a master plan can be developed for employee parking, they would like to add 476 additional parking spots at three locations.

"We currently have 2,243 on-campus spots plus another 200 in East Liberty," said Mark Sevco, vice president facilities for the hospital.

The hospital initially wants neighborhood approval to use 309 spots available at the Towerview garage in Oakland, and relocate that number of employees using campus parking, to free up those spots for patients and other employees.

Sevco, along with Logan and two other hospital officials, attended a meeting this week of the Baum-Centre group, seeking its approval of that plan because it would use shuttle bus service to transport employees from Oakland to Shadyside and back.

The Baum-Center group will inform the hospital of its decision prior to a Nov. 4 hearing on the request before the city Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Parking may become even more of an issue as the hospital has expanded its bed capacity from 446 to 520 and will add 11 more medical examining rooms to the 50 in the emergency room, as West Penn Hospital shut down many of its services in Bloomfield.

"We've already experienced an increase in visits to our emergency room," said John Innocenti, hospital president.

That could mean adding more employees to the 3,109 currently on campus.

"What would satisfy many residents, besides providing off-street parking for its employees, would be adding new housing, some retail along with parking, at sites such as Luna," said Bob Pfaffman, a Shadyside resident.

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