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Construction begins on new Frick Environmental Center

Last week, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and the City of Pittsburgh began construction on the new Frick Environmental Center at Frick Park.
The Environmental Center is being built in the footprint of the old center that burned down in 2002, off Beechwood Boulevard in the park’s northwest corner.
“After many years of enthusiastic community input, dedicated public and private support and careful design and planning, the work to build the new center is now underway,” says Meg Cheever, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.
A total of 2.5 acres will be cleared at the perimeter of the 644-acre park to allow for construction. To ensure safe operation of equipment, a total of five acres will be temporarily fenced off. Several park trail detours are in effect and visitors are encouraged to visit www.pittsburghparks.org/environmentalcenter for information on specific trails and the area of Frick Park that will be affected.
“We are doing our best to minimize the effects on park users,” says Scott Roller, Parks Conservancy senior manager, marketing and communications.

The center will include indoor learning spaces, a public gathering and reception area, public restrooms and offices, as well as an amphitheater built into the hillside, landscape restoration and gardens.
Though the new center is being constructed in the same framework as the old building, a second floor and basement will increase usable space.
Green initiatives are also being implemented. The new Environmental Center has been designed to meet the rigorous standards of the Living Building Challenge as well as LEED Platinum standards. The site will incorporate a geothermal heating and cooling system, will fully support its own needs for water and energy and will capture rainwater for irrigation and reuse. 

The Environmental Center will provide children, families and adults from all parts of the city access to environmental education programs. 

“[The center] becomes a gathering place for all things nature and environmentally related,” Roller says. He adds that the park is a “natural classroom” and the building creates a base for learning and programs.

Frick Environmental Center classes are designed with teacher input to align with curriculum requirements in grades K-12 while maximizing time outside in the park. Summer camps are offered for children ages three and up.

The Environmental Center will have a public “living room” area, classroom and meeting spaces. There will be clean, fully-accessible restrooms and places to get fresh water

Since 2011, more than 1,000 people have been involved in a public visioning and planning process for the center that included dozens of input sessions and meetings.  Hundreds more participated in sessions held in earlier years. 
“[We are] excited and energized [now] that this moment has come,” Roller says about the years of planning and fundraising.

The project is expected to be completed in two years.
Source: Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Scott Roller, Heather Sage
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