CMU's Institutional Master Plan undergoing final rounds of approval

Carnegie Mellon's Institutional Master Plan (IMP) is currently undergoing final rounds of approval by the Pittsburgh City Council, and in a few weeks' time, will likely be approved. The IMP is a document that large landowning institutions are required to submit to the city every 10 years that outlines all projects they intend to complete within the next decade, and Carnegie Mellon’s master plan has been years in the making. The Tartan spoke with Bob Reppe, the University Architect, and Jennifer Beck, the Project Manager, to learn about the plan (a summary of the IMP is available online).

The IMP, as Reppe describes it, is a "bit of a wish list." Since the University is not bound to follow through on all the items, Reppe calls it, "a projection of where we think the university will be in the next 10 years." Carnegie Mellon is currently zoned as an EMI​​ (Educational and Medical Institution), a special designation given to universities and hospitals within Pittsburgh. The IMP is the means by which the city can keep track of what large institutions are doing on their land. The IMP contains plans for new buildings, new infrastructure to integrate Carnegie Mellon with adjacent communities, and revitalizing existing public spaces on campus. Highlights from the list of proposed developments include:
- Up to three new mixed-use buildings (including possible new dorms, dining, offices, and classrooms) at the current site of Donner House and the Donner ditch
- A new mixed-use building on what is currently a parking lot behind Morewood Gardens
- A new engineering building between Scott Hall and Robert Mehrabian Collaborative Institute
- Replacing Cyert Hall and Warner Hall with a new administrative building
- Rebuilding the Greek Quad with denser housing
- A new science building at the site of Carnegie lots (the southeast corner of Forbes and Craig). Construction on this building is scheduled to begin in 2023 thanks to a recent 75 million dollar grant from the Richard King Mellon foundation

In addition to new academic buildings and student housing, the IMP describes a "mobility plan," which includes:
- Widening the sidewalks, improving pedestrian crossings, and creating public seating on Craig Street
- Constructing a bridge across Junction Hollow between Scott Hall and the proposed new science building at Carnegie Lots
- Straightening the intersection, building a bus shelter, and establishing bike-only lanes at Morewood Avenue and Fifth Avenue
- Improving the connection between Schenley Park and campus
- A walkway on the west side of the tennis courts to directly connect the CUC and CFA building
- Widening the Forbes Ave bridge over Junction Hollow to accommodate wider sidewalks and bike-only lanes

The initial stages of the plan began in May of 2020, and was followed by an extended period of community outreach. According to Reppe, the IMP project team held over 100 meetings with stakeholders, including Carnegie Mellon students, neighboring communities, and city government departments. By fall of 2021, the team began to create the final document, and Reppe expects the final vote from city council to take place within three to five weeks.

There are a number of posters around campus announcing an application to rezone certain parcels of land for the IMP. While the public hearing occurred more than a month ago, it's important to go over what this rezoning actually describes. Currently, several student housing units are zoned as standard residential plots, including Fifth Neville Apartments, Clyde House and Highland Apartments. The university is proposing to change these to EMI to be consistent with the rest of the University.

One of the major themes of the 2022 IMP is densifying the existing campus, and creating better pedestrian-oriented infrastructure. One of their goals was to ensure there is no net increase in parking — all new parking spaces have to be integrated into existing buildings and parking structures (this is in accordance with a non-binding recommendation from the City of Pittsburgh).

When asked how many of the new items are likely to be built, Reppe responded, "We will never get to everything in the master plan in the next 10 years." By nature, the IMP tends to be an aspirational document, since it represents the upper limit of how much the university would be allowed to expand in the next decade. According to Reppe, even though "the deans of all three science schools" want the bridge over Junction Hollow, it's still arguably one of the most ambitious elements of the plan and is by no means a guarantee.

When asked to describe their favorite parts of the new plan, Beck emphasized its "focus on the public realm," and how it will develop "the spaces between the buildings that everyone experiences." Reppe emphasized how the plan focuses on developing the "campus edges," including the connection with Schenley Park and the Craig Street neighborhood.