UPMC delays $300M research center, with funding, approvals cited
UPMC will delay construction of a $300 million science center in Bloomfield that was hailed for its potential to create 375 high-paying research jobs and revitalize a long-empty industrial building on Baum Boulevard.
John Innocenti, president of UPMC Shadyside, blamed the delay of the UPMC Center for Innovative Science on funding. His comments were made during a community meeting on Monday night at the hospital to discuss the center and another highly anticipated Bloomfield project, construction of a 1,000-car parking garage for UPMC Shadyside workers.
“After the city approved our 10-year master plan, our goal was to build first both the garage and the Center for Innovative Science,” Innocenti said. “While we have funds for the garage, and it is included in the hospital budget, we decided without adequate funds available to delay start of the center.”
On Tuesday, UPMC spokesman Paul Wood disputed Innocenti's statements, saying that “funding is not an issue.” He confirmed that the start of construction was pushed back and that a previously announced opening of “late 2014” would not happen only because city approvals were not obtained as quickly as anticipated.
Wood said UPMC was “overly optimistic” in announcing the center would open by late 2014.
“We were aggressive in our timing,” he said.
UPMC has not determined a new date for opening the center, which would renovate a former Ford Motor Co. building at the corner of Baum and Morewood Avenue. The project would construct an addition onto the building, more than doubling its size.
UPMC bought the 92-year-old Ford building for $10 million in 2007, and said it would add research space there. The Center for Innovative Science was announced in October 2011 as a world-class research center where scientists would work to identify genetic and environmental factors that made some people more susceptible to cancer.
The center project will be presented to the city's Planning Commission in March, Wood said.
City Councilman Bill Peduto, a longtime supporter of revitalization projects along the Baum corridor, said a master planning process for UPMC Shadyside, which included the center and parking garage, “probably took longer than they anticipated.”
Peduto said parking for UPMC employees needs to be dealt with before the new research center is built. The Luna Garage will provide parking for employees who, in many cases, now park on local streets, causing tension between residents and the hospital.
Construction of the garage, which was discussed in detail at Monday's meeting, is expected to start following the March meeting of the Planning Commission.
UPMC declined to provide an estimate on the cost of the garage, stating it wanted to wait until bids on the work have been chosen.
The proposed garage, open only to employees who would be issued passes, would contain five floors with the top open floor on about the same level as Baum Boulevard, said Howard Graves of Graves Design, who designed the structure.
There would be a three-lane road built from the garage to Baum, where a traffic light will be installed to handle traffic entering and exiting the structure, as well as pedestrian traffic across Baum.
The lane, with pedestrian walks along both sides and a retaining wall, would have two lanes open during rush hours either providing access to the garage or egress out of it, Graves said.
“The traffic signal will not be installed until the road is completed and the garage open for hospital staff,” said Cindy Jampole of Trans Associates, who conducted the traffic study necessary for city approval.
But the garage road and the traffic signal did not please Grace Robinson, a State Farm insurance agent whose office is at 5108 Baum, opposite the proposed traffic light and road.
“You are not considering small business firms such as mine by eliminating parking spaces on Baum for my customers,” she said.
The plan calls for the parking meters to be removed on the southern side of Baum, only in the area opposite the traffic signal and road.
Although Jampole said attempts will be made to maximize the number of parking spaces to serve her business, Robinson said any elimination will affect it.
“When we open the garage, we will end our shuttle service, which brings staff from various parking areas to the campus,” hospital spokesman Sean Logan said.