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Development & Transportation

Penguins Get Another Reprieve On Lower Hill Development Deadline

Margaret J. Krauss
90.5 WESA
At a special meeting of the Urban Redevelopment Authority Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, the board voted to again extend the Penguins development deadline

The Urban Redevelopment Authority board voted Thursday in a special meeting to extend the Penguins' deadline to begin development on the former Civic Arena site in the Lower Hill by another two weeks.

Of the five board members, former Sen. Jim Ferlo was the one to oppose the measure.

“It’s been at least eight years now with, in my opinion, no evidence that the Penguins are actually sincere about moving forward with development,” he said.

Citing the millions of public dollars used to remediate and prepare the site, Ferlo said, “the Penguins organization is disingenuous, I don’t think they’re negotiating in good faith. I consider them not only slick, but needy and greedy when it comes to the manner in which they’ve conducted themselves with the taxpayers, as well as this administration.”

The Penguins development arm, the Pittsburgh Arena Real Estate Development L.P., or PAR, now has until the next regularly scheduled URA board meeting on Nov. 9 to present its plan.

The original deadline to buy the first 2.14-acre parcel on the 28-acre site was Oct. 22, as agreed to in the 2014 Comprehensive Option Agreement signed by PAR. Last week that deadline was extended to Friday, Oct. 27.

This most recent extension was requested to allow PAR, city of Pittsburgh officials and the Sports and Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County (SEA), which owns most of the land, to make a deal that works for the public, said URA Chairman Kevin Acklin, also chief of staff for Mayor Bill Peduto.

“Our one job here is to do what’s in the best interest of the residents of the city. I can tell you that’s the spirit of this negotiation,” said Acklin. “I think there’s hope.”

Councilman Daniel Lavelle, whose district includes the Hill District, said it was the final extension he would support.

“Most of us would universally consider it a very bad deal that we were handed many years ago,” he said. “It is our hope ... that it would now be a more favorable one for the public.”

The deal was initially negotiated in 2007 by the city, county and state, and includes $15 million in credits that PAR can use to purchase land from the SEA.

Lavelle would not go into the details of the negotiation, but said he hopes the $15 million in credits can be renegotiated.

“Our biggest leverage is the fact that parcels can … potentially begin reverting back to the city,” he said.

Come Nov. 9, the board will either vote on approved amendments to the Comprehensive Options Agreement or vote to bring the first parcel back under the city’s control, Lavelle said.

In practice, PAR has only until Nov. 2 to finish its negotiations; the URA board voted to require details of the plan to be available for an executive session at that time. Whether the plan will be available publicly before Nov. 9 is yet to be determined.