Frick Environmental Center
An artist's rendering of the south end of the Frick Environmental Center.

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy will move one step closer to bringing its proposed environmental center in Frick Park to fruition later this month when it opens the project up to contractors for competitive bidding.

The Frick Environmental Center, which will be situated in the 115-acre Frick Woods Nature Reserve section of the park, will showcase the latest in green design and serve as an educational resource for the community on nature and healthy living. It is designed to meet both LEED Platinum and Living Building challenge standards.

The main building will cover 15,000 square feet and include classrooms, public gathering areas, office space, gardens and a woodland amphitheater built into the nearby hillside.

“We’ve been working on design for almost three years,” says Marijke Hecht, the parks conservancy’s director of education. “This is very much a public building and it’ll be free and open during park hours.”

To help drive the design, the parks conservancy enlisted the help of architecture and design firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, which specializes in these kinds of projects.

In addition to a landscape filled with native plants, the center will feature a parking garage shaded by solar panels, a system for catching and redistributing rainwater, and a system which heats and cools the building using geothermal loops.

The project will also include the restoration of Frick Park’s two gatehouses and the construction of what the conservancy is calling a “barn,” which will house upkeep equipment, restrooms and other pertinent facilities.

Hecht says that as long as the bids come back safely within the conservancy’s budget range, construction — which is expected to take two years — could begin this summer.

“If it turns out the bids come out higher than we anticipate, we’ll need to make some adjustments,” Hecht says. “We have a tentative schedule, but it’s important for the people to understand that it’s at a very early stage.”

The conservancy estimates that the entire project, which it’s planning to execute in three stages, will cost about $15.9 million.

Matthew Wein is a local writer, editor, blogger, storyteller and proud native Pittsburgher. Once described as "a man of things," he covers city design, spirits and craft beer for NEXT, where he keeps all of the editorial meetings light-hearted and interesting. His interests include sorting books, looking at old things and candles which smell like old-growth pine forests.