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Officials from Carnegie Mellon University stressed their desire to work with surrounding neighborhoods to improve business opportunities and ease traffic congestion during a Pittsburgh City Planning Commission meeting outlining CMU’s proposed 10-year Institutional Master Plan, a requirement mandated in the city’s Educational/Medical Institution District.
The first meeting on July 12 centered on the university’s plan to repurpose and replace its older buildings. And on Tuesday, CMU Senior Director of Planning Bob Reppe, the university’s architect; and Jen Beck, the project manager, picked up the thread with plans to open the campus to the surrounding neighborhoods with more bike lanes and walkways.
The main campus includes parts of the Squirrel Hill North, Shadyside and North Oakland neighborhoods.
“We’re pushing for easier connections to surrounding areas,” Reppe said during the meeting.
As part of that effort, the university is proposing to replace ground-level parking with underground parking. Reppe said CMU currently has about 3,000 parking spaces and it does not plan on increasing that number.
The university’s plans outlined five new bike trails that would cut through the campus, making travel into Schenley Park easier. A number of proposed pedestrian networks aim for the same ease of travel.
“We don’t want to be seen as a barrier to Schenley Park,” Beck said, noting that CMU is working with the nonprofit Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.
Make Craig Street great?
The university’s plan also calls for closer working relationships with some of the business improvement districts bordering the campus.
Reppe said CMU is working with the Oakland Business Improvement District to improve conditions for business in areas including South Craig Street. Businesses on Craig, Reppe said, expressed their hopes that the university could help “revitalize” the area.
CMU’s presentation to the commission said the university wants to “make Craig Street a Great Street.” Reppe also expressed a desire to incorporate Craig Street into an innovation district.
Beck said that they plan on working with the business district to create more outdoor seating and to have pop-up retail events to “make it more of a market space.”
“For our neighbors, being close to a college campus isn’t always a great thing,” Beck added. “We want to reach out and make positive connections and bring some of the great things we’re doing to their community centers and schools.”
One way Beck proposed doing this is through leveraging about 40 student-run university organizations that are devoted to community service. The university’s plan also calls for connecting CMU educators to K-12 schools in the area.
Reppe said CMU held a number of community meetings and town halls as part of outreach efforts to create the proposed plan.
Commissioner Jean Dick asked university officials about traffic safety plans for the intersections of Fifth Avenue and Neville Street and Fifth Avenue and Morewood Street. “They’re both very dangerous to pedestrians and drivers,” Dick said.
Reppe agreed and said that the university is working with the city and Port Authority to realign Morewood Street and move a busy bus stop onto campus property.
The commission has not yet set a date for public testimony and its vote, which could occur in September.