Plans are moving forward for the new Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry Township.
At Monday’s Planning Advisory Commission meeting, Cranberry officials approved grading for 37 acres on the school’s future home along Old Mars Crider Road and Route 228 near the border of Cranberry and Seven Fields borough.
The Diocese of Pittsburgh in 2010 announced plans to close the school’s building in Pittsburgh's Troy Hill and move programs to Cranberry in response to population growth and shifts in the North Hills.
“It’s a great location for it,” said Michael Arnold, chief facilities officer for the Pittsburgh diocese. “There’s a lot of growth in this area. It makes sense.”
The grading approval was a precursor to the full land development plans—including a floor plan of the school—that Arnold said would be filed with the township today. Ron Henshaw, Cranberry's director of community development, said the grading approval would jumpstart the land development process.
“It's just enough to get them moving dirt,” he said.
Arnold said the hope is to begin grading the wooded land in March and have construction on the building started by May. The school is set to open in time for the 2013-14 school year, although Arnold said an auditorium, library and other areas not used for classrooms or administrative space might be added in later phases of construction.
The 175,000 square foot building, which Astorino Architects and Engineers of Pittsburgh is designing, is in the final phase of design, Arnold said. When complete, the school will accommodate 1,000 students in grades nine through 12.
“Each class will have 250 students,” he said.
In a statement released last spring, Bishop David A. Zubik said the school, which has a projected cost of $54-60 million, is the largest building project that the Diocese of Pittsburgh has undertaken in recent history.
The diocese bought the 71-acres property for $8 million in 2010, according to Pittsburgh Catholic Newspaper.
Arnold said efforts to raise money for the school are ongoing.
While grading won’t begin until later this year, the diocese already has cleared from the property two abandoned wooden structures that area firefighters had used for training exercises. In late October, the buildings, which were scheduled to be demolished to make room for the school, caught fire several times. Arnold said the remains of the buildings were removed from the site within a few days of the fire.
Roads and Traffic Concerns
Several Seven Field residents who have homes near the entrance to the school’s new site also attended Monday's Planning Advisory Commission meeting.
Taking note of the stakes mapping out construction that began popping up near her property several months ago, Teri Kunes said she was excited for the new school but concerned how the new traffic patterns would affect her home.
“It’s just the unknown,” she said.
Michael Takacs, senior project manager for Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc. in Pittsburgh, the firm that the diocese hired to oversee land planning, said he is working with the township to ease traffic concerns. As part of that plan, he said there would be some realignment of Old Mars Criders Road.
“We think what's actually proposed is a communitywide improvement,” he said. “It’s not simply an improvement for the high school itself.”
Aaron and Lindsay Komlos, who moved into their home along Old Mars Crider Road six month ago, said they were pleased with the information they learned Monday. Like their neighbor Kunes, Lindsay Komlos said she and her husband are excited for the school's opening in Cranberry. They just are curious how the building, the construction of it and the traffic it generates, will affect their property.
“This is a good step,” she said.
The Planning Advisory Commission is expected to review land development plans for the high school at its next meeting at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 30 in the township municipal center. If approved, the plans would next go before Cranberry’s board of supervisors.