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Hill District Says Pens Should Pay Up

The Hill District Consensus Group is not happy with the Pittsburgh Penguins. They want more. The group is proposing to the Sport and Exhibition Authority (SEA) to use its influence to request that the Penguins give greater monetary contributions to the community.

Carl Redwood of the Hill District Consensus Group suggests that the Penguins give one dollar to a Hill Community Improvement Fund for every car parked in the lot next to the CONSOL Energy Center for the next 28 years. He anticipates that would generate $600,000 a year for the fund.

Redwood said the money in the fund would not go towards "bricks and mortar," and stressed it's an improvement fund, not a development fund.

"We have a number of different things that the community has talked about," Redwood said, "helping homeowners fix up their homes, having more programs for youth in the community, also beautification projects in the neighborhood, and we have a transportation issue."

Parking at the lower lot owned by the SEA and the Urban Redevelopment Authority costs $6.00 on non-event days. 35% of that goes to taxes and the other 65% is revenue for the Penguins and CAPCO, Inc., the company controlling the lot. Redwood suggests one dollar be taken from the Penguins' portion and fed into the Community Improvement Fund. He noted the Pens make about $14,000 a day from the lot.

But in 2008 the Pens and the Hill District signed the Community Benefits Agreement that detailed how the team would contribute to the area. One of the obligations for the Pens was to give the Hill District $1 million dollars towards building a grocery store. Redwood said that amount only skims the surface of what the team received in state and gambling revenues to build the new hockey arena.

The group also said the Pens backed out of their promise to construct a garden passageway with plants and flowers between the Epiphany church and the CONSOL Energy Center, and suggests the plan contributed to the center's LEED certification. Renee Aldrich, of the Hill District Consensus Group, said the Penguins also abandoned an art project called "Curtain Call" that was supposed to be built in the garden passageway. She said a lot of time and investment went into preparation including deciding on artist Walter Hood to install it.

"My hope would be that that [the SEA] would use their relationship with the Penguins to notify them that everybody is asking, 'Why aren't you holding up to the obligation to do this project?'" Redwood said.

"Curtain Call" was going to contain 5,000 6" × 6" photographs of the Hill District and its residents on glass cubes. The project was due to cost about $1.5 million. Aldrich said other organizations were considered to fund it, but added the Penguins should keep their commitment.