CUC expands among other campus construction

The expansion of the Jared L. Cohon University Center broke ground last October; additions to the building include a new dance and theatre studio space and expanded fitness facilities. (credit: Brian Trimboli/Editor-in-Chief) The expansion of the Jared L. Cohon University Center broke ground last October; additions to the building include a new dance and theatre studio space and expanded fitness facilities. (credit: Brian Trimboli/Editor-in-Chief)

Returning students will find a few things different about Carnegie Mellon when classes begin next week, in the midst of the busiest period of university expansion since its founding in 1900.
Last spring, the university began expanding the Jared L. Cohon University Center (CUC). The CUC, originally built in the mid-nineties and renamed after former university president Jared L. Cohon in March 2014, is receiving expanded athletic facilities, a new studio theater space, and other changes that are still in the works.

The improved CUC will include a new gateway to Forbes Avenue, a “front door” for the university that reinforces Carnegie Mellon’s 2012 master plan, according to Campus Design and Facility Development’s website. According to the website, “While complementary to the existing facility, the addition is designed to be a contemporary architectural piece, incorporating materials from the existing building palette.”

Although construction for the expansion officially broke ground in October, changes to the CUC began in earnest during the spring semester. In March, after the end of the Tartan swim team’s 2014–15 season, the university closed the CUC’s locker rooms and half-sized Olympic swimming pool to begin renovations. The reopened facilities feature an improved locker room, two fitness classrooms, and a dedicated cycling studio. The pool’s air handling system will also be refurbished. Before the renovations, the CUC held only one fitness classroom, restricting the schedule of group exercise and other fitness classes.

The new studio theater, according to the website, includes “dance quality flooring” along with a lighting system, sound system, and tension grid. Student organizations can use this space for dance and theater rehearsals and performances, as well as small concerts.

These changes come about as part of a larger effort to improve athletic facilities on campus. Although plans for the upcoming David A. Tepper Quadrangle are not yet finalized, Tepper stipulated with his $67 million donation that the new space include athletic facilities. The university is working with architecture firm Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners to design the new space, which will also include what will be the campus’s largest auditorium, a university welcome center, a technology-enhanced learning space for the Eberly Center, and the official home of the Tepper School of Business and the Simon Initiative. Over the course of the next year, university administrators will work with deans and department heads to reallocate classroom space with these expansions in mind.

The Tepper Quadrangle, although it will not be completed until fall 2018, also has more immediate implications for campus life. The Quad, planned to be 295,000 square feet spread across four-and-a-half acres of university property, will displace Spring Carnival, which until this year took place on the Morewood Gardens parking lot.

This year’s Spring Carnival will be the first to be spread across the College of Fine Arts lawn and parking lot. Booths will be on the parking lot, while Carnival rides and attractions will be on the lawn. Members of the university’s administration proposed the CFA lawn and parking lot after looking at several other options and narrowing down the list through extensive research, meetings with student organizations such as AB Concerts and Student Senate, and town hall meetings to garner the opinion of the student body.

The university also announced in June that it would be “moving toward a unified campus” by “undertak[ing] a project to connect the portions of campus north and south of Forbes Avenue, while completing a unified vision for the Cut.” According to a campus-wide email from Vice President for Campus Affairs Michael Murphy and Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer Amir Rahnamay-Azar, this project will expand the Purnell Center for the Arts to the north, toward Forbes Avenue.

“The largest element will be a structure extending from the Purnell Center to the north,” the email says. “A part of the university’s master plan for more than a decade, this addition will visually match the Cohon University Center side of the Cut, providing a natural campus entry point and seamless connection to the new Tepper Quadrangle to the north. The structure will house a faculty gathering space and offices that will free space elsewhere.”

The expansion will also include a “town square,” a space meant to provide a “safe and pleasant” crossing for Forbes Avenue and an “outdoor gathering space linking the Cut to campus facilities to the north.” The university sought proposals from architecture firms over the summer to plan this addition.

The university is also planning to expand along the Forbes Avenue corridor toward Craig Street. In a campus-wide email in April, Vice Provost for Research Farnam Jahanian outlined a plan for a plot of land on the south side of Forbes Avenue, near South Craig Street. This development, located next to the Carnegie Museum of National History and the Carnegie Museum of Art, “could include research space for faculty and students, space for external partners, labs and studios for collaborative industry-academia use, office space, a quality hotel, parking, and some retail space. It would build on the momentum of the adjacent Mehrabian Collaborative Innovation Center and serve as a new gateway to our campus from the west,” Jahanian wrote in the email.

This development is part of the university’s plan to create a new “innovation corridor” along Forbes Avenue, one that could “rival the major hubs of innovation around the world, and make Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University a magnet for talent and an axis for ideas that have global impact.”

Hamburg Hall is also in the midst of a renovation, and the university is continuing construction on the Sherman and Joyce Bowie Scott Hall. Scott Hall, nestled between Hamerschlag and Wean Halls and scheduled to be completed in 2016, will be the home to Carnegie Mellon’s growing Biomedical Engineering Department, nano fabrication, and the Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

Scott Hall will “house wet and dry laboratories, collaborative and office spaces, a cafe, and a 10K SF cleanroom facility,” according to Carnegie Mellon’s department of Campus Design and Facilities Management.

Currently the North side of Forbes Avenue, in front of the Morewood Gardens parking lot, is under heavy construction after a water main break in early June. The construction has reduced Forbes Avenue between Morewood Avenue and South Craig Street to one lane in either direction, hindering the flow of traffic through Oakland.