Citizens School of Nursing continues mixed use trend at Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer
Students who attend Allegheny Health Network’s Citizens School of Nursing are looking forward to the changes as they prepare to start a new year in a new location.
“I think the upgrade is going to be really nice,” said senior Ashley Alcorn, of New Kensington. “I think it’s going to bring in more kids.”
The school held an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday at its new location in the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer.
AHN announced last May that the nursing school would move to the former ITT Tech location in the mall. It occupies about 21,000 square feet. Since 2004, the school has been housed in the former Citizens General Hospital in New Kensington, along with other AHN clinical services.
Students said they are looking forward to bigger classrooms, new equipment and a safe environment.
“I feel a lot safer here,” said senior Nichole Nadeo.
The new location will be a bit farther for her, about an hour from her home in New Derry, but she said it’s worth it.
“I love Citizens, so I would drive farther — it’s a really nice school,” she said.
They also said they are happy to have more places to grab a bite to eat between classes, referencing the mall’s food court and other free-standing restaurants outside of the enclosed mall.
“We don’t have to stay here, we can go outside and just chill,” said senior Lilibeth Best, who travels from Butler.
The new space includes larger, wired classrooms, medical simulation training capabilities, a library, new computer labs and free parking, among other things.
School starts Monday Jan. 7 .
“There are so many benefits,” said Lynne Rugh, director of the school, who said they’ve never been in a space that was truly designed to be a school.
“That makes so much difference.”
The school offers a two-year, hospital-based program that prepares students to take the national licensing exam for registered nurses. The school enrolls an average of 150 to 175 students, graduating 60 to 80 yearly, and employs 27 faculty and support staff.
The school is the first new tenant since the Pittsburgh Mills mall was bought last May for about $12 million by Long Island-based Mason Asset Management.
Bringing in the school matches a national trend for struggling malls in which they transition to a mix-use facility instead of strictly retail. The Pittsburgh Mills has several non-retail businesses, including several gym and sports facilities.
Downtown Pittsburgh’s Station Square development is another local example. The Bradford School, a primary tenant in Station Square’s Freight House Shops for years, reportedly closed in December. UPMC is said to be in talks to open a training center on the property , although no details have been released.
Developers are also considering putting a proposed mini casino into the Westmoreland Mall in Hempfield.
Frazer officials previously said they hope the addition of the school might provide a boost to the restaurants and retail stores at the mall.
Pittsburgh Mills has been struggling to maintain a retail base that attracts customers since it opened about 13 years ago.
A message left for Elliot Nassim, president of Mason Asset Management, wasn’t returned Thursday.
Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Emily at 724-226-4680, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @emilybalser.