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.

The meeting marked the second that CMU officials had this month to outline their proposed 10-year Institutional Master Plan, a requirement mandated for organizations in the city’s Educational/Medical Institution District. 

The first meeting on July 12 centered on the university’s plan to repurpose and replace their 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.

Carnegie Mellon University’s map of proposed bike lanes through their campus submitted to Pittsburgh’s Planning Commission on July 26.

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, they are proposing to replace ground-level parking with underground parking. Reppe said CMU currently has about 3,000 parking spaces total and they do not plan on increasing that.

The university’s plans outlined five new bike trails that would cut through the university’s campus, making travel through campus 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 to achieve these goals. 

The university’s plan also calls for closer working relationships with some of the business improvement districts bordering the campus.

Make Craig Street great?

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.”

Carnegie Mellon University’s rendering of South Craig Street improvements as part of their master plan proposal.

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 their outreach efforts to create their 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.

Eric Jankiewicz is PublicSource’s economic development reporter, and can be reached at ericj@publicsource.org or on Twitter @ericjankiewicz.

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Eric Jankiewicz

Eric Jankiewicz is a reporter focused on housing and economic development for PublicSource. A native New Yorker, Eric moved to Pittsburgh in 2017 and has since fallen in love with his adopted city, even...