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[IMGCAP(1)]PITTSBURGH-Point Park University has started on the beginning of the Academic Village, a six-year, $210-million campus master plan starting with the conversion of two office buildings into residence halls here. The construction in the 3,600-student liberal arts school in the center of downtown Pittsburgh will include adding a student center, improving the Wood Street Corridor as well as building Pittsburgh Playhouse.

[IMGCAP(2)]“We need to remain competitive. Since we’re out of space we had to buy more property. Otherwise we would not have been able to grow,” says Dr. Paul Henniggan, the president of Point Park University. “We have a pretty sophisticated student shopper. You have to be able to provide what they want and need to feel like they’re getting value for their education.”

For the $210-million project, the university plans to raise $101 million, while $65 million will be invested by the university, primarily in land acquisitions and residence halls. The additional $44 million will be a partnership between the city and university for part of the public parking project that will be underneath the playhouse.

“We chose May to announce the project because it’s right after commencement and the beginning of the summer,” says Hennigan. “We just figured we had to pull it all together by this point in time. There’s no magic to the date.”

Point Park started planning the Academic Village plan in 2006 by contracting WTW Architects of Pittsburgh and Comprehensive Facility Planners Inc., to develop the master space plan. Work started on the two new residence halls this January and is expected to be completed this August. Construction on the park and streets is expected to being either in late 2009 or early 2010. The student center’s renovation will start in 2010.

“There are several pieces of this project. Also the quality of the space is important for today’s student,” Hennigan tells GlobeSt.com. “We have no student union. There’s no place for traditional aged students to hang out. There’s no place for adult students to gather and work on projects. All of that is really important.”

A former YMCA will be reconstructed as the new student union, located on the Boulevard of the Allies between Wood and Smithfield streets. The union will be built green and include a student center, gymnasium, student housing and a park.

The new Pittsburgh Playhouse will be constructed closer to the current campus and receive a 500-seat proscenium theater, a 250-seat thrust theater, a 150-seat studio theater, residence hall, production space and teaching areas. Point Park owns a playhouse in Oakland to be sold once the new stages are completed.

The Boulevard of the Allies will also receive a makeover with new landscaping in the islands, façade lighting and new pavement as well as sidewalks. Wood Street connects the campus to the park, and the road will be enhanced with more trees, lighting, trash bins and paving.

Over the past decade, the university spent $60 million on capital improvements to renovate the University Center, Academic Hall, Lawrence Hall and the LEED-certified dance complex. The school also added 160 beds to two residence halls over the past two years, and will add 270 over the next two years.

“The vision of the university is to be one of the most dynamic private urban universities in American and this project launches that,” says Hennigan. Point Park is a liberal university located in downtown Pittsburgh with an undergrad and graduate student population projected to grow from 3,600 to 4,300, according to Hennigan.

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