New $7M land purchase needs to prove its usefulness

According to a Nov. 10 press release, Carnegie Mellon has just agreed to spend $7.5 million on a half-acre plot of land that previously housed a gas station. The land, located on Forbes Avenue east of Craig Street but west of the Collaborative Innovation Center on campus, could serve as a bridge from the main campus buildings to the small Craig Street-based commercial district so heavily populated by Carnegie Mellon’s students.

With an ever-expanding student population and a need to keep up with its top academic competitors, it makes sense for Carnegie Mellon to want to buy more land and physically expand its main campus’s grounds. But is spending $7 million on a plot of land that will likely sit empty for years the most financially viable option for a university whose own president has expressed concern over the institution’s financial woes?

Moreover, following the university’s plan for expansion as outlined by the Campus Design and Facilities Development master plan, new physical development of the campus looks more spread-out than dense. While it is important and impressive that this plan exists, and that it is more or less consistently evaluated and updated, the scope of development for Carnegie Mellon might not be thinking enough about the landscape of the Oakland region and city at large. As we become less of an industrial urban area and more of a technology-driven, education-based urban powerhouse, our architecture should reflect this: We need denser, taller buildings. We need to build upon what we have — we can have taller buildings on campus; we can go underground; we can expand upon already sprawling parking lots and open areas on campus.

While more development in any way is good for the university and will draw more people to the city of Pittsburgh, it is imperative that these changes reflect the direction of the university itself.