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Point Park University plans to lease two Downtown buildings for student housing and eventually build a new sports facility for its growing athletic programs.

“We’re bursting at the seams in terms of resident students,” said Point Park President Katherine Henderson in an interview that offered a preview of her State of the University address at 5 p.m. today at Lawrence Hall.

The university houses 600 students on campus and another 130 at Chatham College in Shadyside. Point Park will lease two three-story buildings at 7 and at 111 Wood St. for apartment-style residence halls. They will house 120 students in the fall of 2006.

Point Park’s enrollment has grown from 2,200 students in 1997 to 3,450 students now. The university originally planned to have 3,500 students, including 500 graduate students, by the fall of 2007.

“There’s no doubt we’ll make that goal probably by next fall,” Henderson said.

She called Point Park and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh the “economic engines” on the Boulevard of the Allies.

With the help of a $16 million fund drive, Point Park razed the Dameron Building and converted it into a small park Downtown for students; redesigned the lobby of Academic Hall; renovated the Point Cafe, the Ballroom and the bookstore; and converted the former library into the University Center, a home for its cinema and digital arts program.

Point Park is building new dance studios on the Boulevard of the Allies and restoring Lawrence Hall. The university hopes to launch a part-time doctorate in education in the fall.

The university is studying possible community uses for a portion of the University Center. Among the ideas are a children’s library and a cybercafe.

Henderson said the university also is thinking of switching its affiliation from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics to the NCAA Division II, a move that could require the addition of more sports.

Point Park offers nine varsity sports: men’s and women’s basketball, cross country and soccer, men’s baseball and women’s softball and volleyball.

Henderson said the university is exploring the idea of building a sports arena for varsity and intramural teams and a fitness center for all students. The arena would make it easier for students to attend the games. Right now, team venues are scattered around the county, playing basketball in West Mifflin and baseball and softball in Harmar.

“It would really help in baseball, basketball and soccer if the field were closer,” she said.

There is no timetable or location for the new arena.

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