There are 11 homes on Devonshire Road in the part of Squirrel Hill that everyone calls Oakland. It is a gem of a cul-de-sac tucked off of Fifth Avenue between Carnegie Mellon University’s Mudge House and the WQED offices and studios.

In 1997, Carnegie Mellon University began purchasing homes along the street, one by one. The school bought three of the homes in 1997, another three in 1999, and one each year in 2003, 2018 and 2022. Just two houses on the west side of the street remain family-owned. The two privately owned properties pay real estate taxes — the other homes are tax-exempt because the university owns them.

Now the university has applied for a zoning change for the east side of Devonshire Road. CMU wants the zoning to change from single-family residential low density to a zone for educational, medical or institutional use.

In 2018 the university also bought the Neville Apartments on Fifth Avenue near the corner of North Neville Street and then a smaller apartment building around the corner, also on North Neville, in 2019. CMU has also asked that those properties be rezoned into the educational and institutional district.

“Let’s say, we zone what we own,” said Jen Beck, a project manager for campus design and facility development with CMU, at a City Planning Commission in late August.

She said the university is aware that living next to a college can have its challenges. “Moving forward we want to be able to manage those negative impacts on our neighbors by rezoning.”

Read the CMU Institutional Master Plan.

The two areas that the university wants to be rezoned are not identified for redevelopment in the 10-year institutional master plan (above), so it should give neighbors comfort to know that CMU is not planning to redevelop those properties for the next 10 years, Beck notes.

The City Planning Commission gave a positive recommendation to the proposed zoning changes, which will go to City Council for approval. The commission also approved the university’s 10-year master plan, which calls for up to 14 new buildings over the next 10 years and six expansions or renovations of existing buildings.

CMU has worked on the plan for the last two years, meeting with community groups over Zoom to explain the school’s intentions.

Bob Reppe, the university’s senior director of planning and design, said just because a new project is on the master plan, doesn’t mean the university will build it. He described the master plan as more of a wish list.

Ann Belser is the owner of Print, a newspaper covering Pittsburgh's East End communities. After receiving a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, she moved to Squirrel Hill and was a staff writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 20 years where she covered local communities, county government, courts and business.