A Broom, Tree and Flag: “Topping Off” Ceremony at UPMC Mercy Pavilion Celebrates Placement of Final Beam

By: Sheila Davis

Today, the last beam was set in place atop the UPMC Mercy Pavilion, marking the completion of the current phase of construction. To celebrate, UPMC held a “Topping Off” ceremony to commemorate this milestone and honor the accomplishments of the construction crew. The $510 million facility will serve patients who need physical rehabilitation and patients who have vision impairment or who have diseases of the eye.

“A great deal of labor still lies ahead, but by putting the last beam in place, we recognize the project team’s pride, and our pride, in the construction progress and accomplishments,” said John Innocenti, president of UPMC Mercy.

The evergreen tree placed on the beam signifies construction has reached the sky. It also symbolizes positive things – good luck for future occupants, new or continued growth in concert with the environment and a safe job, well done. The broom represents a “clean sweep,” meaning the project has reached the top without any loss of life. The American flag represents the country and the future.

Dr. José-Alain Sahel, director of the UPMC Eye Center, and Dr. Gwendolyn Sowa, director of the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, expressed their excitement about this significant moment in the construction timeline.

“To say both of our vision and rehab teams are excited to move into this new space to expand our research and improve the lives of our patients – that would be an understatement,” said Sowa. “The synergy between these teams continues to grow and elevate the capacity to provide innovative, life changing care for our patients.”

“We will bring together everyone – the scientists, clinicians, researchers – to collaborate and amplify the talent we have here and bring big ideas to life,” said Sahel. “We’ve spent years working on the physical design of the building – but what’s most important is what will be done on the inside – for our patients.”

Construction will be completed by the end of 2022 and UPMC will start to see patients in the spring of 2023.

Crew prepping to raise the beam


The beam is set in place


Two crew members shake hands after the beam is placed

John Innocenti signs the beam


Drs. Gwendolyn Sowa and Jose Sahel sign the beam


Employee signs the final beam


Employee signs the final beam