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Going up: Pitt OKs elevator upgrade at Cathedral of Learning

| Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 12:40 p.m.

Pennsylvania taxpayers will underwrite the bulk of $58 million in building renovations at the University of Pittsburgh under a plan approved by Pitt's Property and Facilities Committee on Wednesday.

Major projects include a $10.4 million upgrade of elevators in the Cathedral of Learning and a $34 million renovation of Clapp Hall, which houses Pitt's biological sciences department.

University officials said the Cathedral of Learning elevator project marks the first major upgrade to the aging, notoriously slow elevators in the 42-story, 70-year-old, gothic-style Oakland landmark that houses offices and classrooms. Pitt spokesman John Fedele said the new elevators will contain a computerized, “destination-based” dispatch system that will speed travel time by allowing users to punch in a floor level, rather than just up or down buttons, as they await service.

Project plans call for state funds from Pitt's capital appropriation to cover $10.24 million of the cost, with the remaining $200,000 coming from the university.

State coffers will provide $28 million for the Clapp Hall project, which university officials said will be built to LEED Silver certification standards for green design, construction and operation. The remaining $6 million will come from university reserves.

Pitt will use state funds for $5 million for renovations to the 13th floor labs at the Chevron Science Center. The remaining $500,000 will come from university reserves.

The university will issue bonds for the $5 million renovation of its computer center infrastructure at RIDC Park in Blawnox.

The university will draw on internal reserves for a $3.9 million helium recovery system at its mid-campus center in Oakland.

Pitt officials estimated the projects approved on Wednesday will generate 307 on-site construction jobs and 123 support jobs.

State money for the work does not come out of Pitt's general state subsidies but from the state's annual capital budget allocations for major projects. Last year, the state's capital budget included $160 million for projects at state and state-related universities, including $65 million for work at the 14 state-owned universities, $20 million each for Pitt and Temple, $40 million for Penn State and $10 million for Lincoln University.

Corbett administration spokesman Jay Pagni said the state has funded building projects at the universities at a rate of about $160 million a year since 2011.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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