First look: CMU development team presents plan for Robotics Innovation Center at Hazelwood Green

The University of Pittsburgh, the architects for Perkins Eastman, and the representatives for Hazelwood Green master developer Tishman Speyer made a registered community organization presentation in Hazelwood.

First look: CMU development team presents plan for Robotics Innovation Center at Hazelwood Green

The Carnegie Mellon University development team has already given the project the informal nickname 'the RIC' and revealed its initial plans for the new Robotics Innovation Center that is currently under construction at Hazelwood Green.

On Thursday evening, a group of CMU officials and designers from Perkins Eastman as well as representatives of Hazelwood Green developer Tishman-Speyer gave an early overview of the project at a Registered Community Organization Meeting hosted by the Hazelwood Initiative.

The presentation revealed both the scope and location of the project within the Hazelwood Green Master Plan. CMU plans to construct a three-story building with a total area of 150,000 square feet. The building would be built on a three-acre parcel of land along the northeast corner landscaped at Mill 19 and include a parcel of open space for a “Robot Zoo,” an open area where researchers could test their robotic creations.

CMU will be appearing before the Pittsburgh Zoning Board of Adjustments to request a few modifications to the master plan of Hazelwood Green in the next months.

Bob Reppe said, 'It's really trying to bring the new building into the heart and soul of the Hazelwood Green Community,' to an audience of Hazelwood Green residents and other interested party.

The project is expected to cost around $90 million and will be supported financially by the Richard King Mellon Foundation. In May 2021 the foundation announced a record $150 million gift to CMU, of which $45 million was to go towards the RIC.

CMU's biggest change to the master plan is the elimination of the requirement for two paths to pass through the proposed site. This would require three smaller parcels to be built instead of the larger parcel sought to accommodate RIC.

Austin Gelbard is an executive at Tishman Speyer in New York. He doesn't think the proposed changes to the master plan will cause much controversy from the zoning. The development team, including Gelbard, noted that the two paths through the site of the RIC were not very useful because the parcel was next to the railroad tracks bordering Hazelwood Green.

He said that the changes he was proposing to make to the masterplan were "really limited and very narrow." These changes "really don't impact the experience on the site."

The university intends to provide food services on the front of building, near the plaza. This will be accessible by both researchers and staff inside the building as well as the general public.

Ralph Horgan of CMU, associate vice president for campus development and facility design, said that researchers and professors will probably use the building initially with a small number of people.

Horgan, noting that the National Robotics Engineering Center, a CMU affiliate, is also at capacity, expects the use of the building "to ramp up... as research dollars pour in."

Horgan stated that the play was a long term one for the University.

The second and third floors of the building will be left unfinished, pending the demand and use for the facility.

Jeff Young, the co-managing principle of Perkins Eastman's Pittsburgh office, responded that the design was in line with the intended use of researchers who have very utilitarian requirements.

The building was not meant to be a precious building, he said. He emphasized that the building needed to accommodate the large amount of space and volume required by the building's research needs.