Jessica Lincoln | staff writer
Duquesne’s new College of Osteopathic Medicine now has a home, officials confirmed in December, as the university entered into a purchase agreement for a Forbes Avenue building site.
The Medical College will be located at 1323 Forbes Ave., a 1.2-acre site bordered by Magee Street to the west and Stevenson Street to the east.
The university has agreed to pay $5.7 million for the site, which is currently occupied by the headquarters of Life’sWork of Western PA, a nonprofit organization. The new building will sit across from the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse (formerly A.J. Palumbo Center), which began renovations last year.
“I believe that 1323 Forbes Avenue is the ideal location for the new medical school,” said John M. Kauffman Jr., the founding dean of the medical college, who assumed the role on Jan. 1. “In addition to being at the entrance of the university, it is located across the street from UPMC Mercy Hospital, where we anticipate training medical students. This co-location of medical school and teaching hospital would serve the needs of our communities, the medical students and the faculty very well.”
Work on the building will commence later this year with the demolition of the Weitzman Building, which has served as the headquarters of Life’sWork for nearly 50 years.
Planners estimate that the new building and other improvements to the medical college will cost about $60 million. A “substantial portion of the cost of construction” will be covered by upcoming fundraising efforts, the university said in a statement.
SLAM collaborative architects have already completed preliminary designs for the 80,000 square foot building, and construction is set to begin in June 2021. SLAM’s previous work includes the Medical Education Building at Emory University and the Simulation Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
“In addition to administrative and faculty offices, the building will include more than 12,000 square feet of classroom space and more than 20,000 square feet of space for such advanced learning technologies as virtual anatomy labs, simulation exam and clinical spaces and virtual reality studios,” the university statment said.
The project has been designed to work with Pittsburgh’s Uptown EcoInnovation District initiative, a plan for sustainable redevelopment that the City Planning Commission formally adopted in 2017.
According to its official website, “the EcoInnovation District is an opportunity to identify the ways in which redevelopment can improve the environment, support the needs of existing residents and expand entrepreneurship and job growth.”
As a result of the plan, new development in the Uptown area is expected to adhere to sustainable building performance standards, and developers are encouraged to use other “green” design strategies throughout the planning process. Preliminary designs for the medical college include enhanced greenspace in the area, as well as glassed lobby spaces and a curved setback from the road.
As for Life’sWork, the university has structured a delayed closing so that the organization and its tenants will have time to relocate. The organization will begin transitioning to its new space in the South Side this spring, with the move set to be completed by June 30.
“The space we have on Forbes Avenue is no longer ideally suited to meet our current and future needs,” the organization said in a blog post. “We are proud that this new development will be so beneficial to all of our neighbors in the Uptown community and the City of Pittsburgh; it is a win all around!”
Although the university has not said when construction of the building is expected to finish, the College of Osteopathic Medicine is set to admit its first class in the fall of 2023. Kauffman, who has been included in discussions with the architects, is ready to get started.
“I am very honored and excited to have this amazing opportunity to build a medical school at this outstanding and highly respected university,” Kauffman said.