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Penguins Lower Hill Development Plan Only Half-Approved

Keith Srakocic
AP Photo
Fans gather outside the Penguins arena in 2016. The arena was built as part of an agreement signed between the team, city, county, and state in 2007.

A decision on the Penguins’ amended development plan for the former Civic Arena site in the Lower Hill has been delayed until next week.

While the Sports and Exhibition Authority of Allegheny County approved the new plan, it still needs approval from the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

URA Chairman Kevin Acklin acknowledged the new plan wasn’t circulated to board members until late Wednesday night for a Thursday vote. At the request of City Councilman Lavelle, who also sits on the URA board, Acklin did not ask for a vote.

In order to give board members time to thoroughly review amendments to the Comprehensive Options Agreement, signed in 2007, an executive session will be held Monday. The board plans to vote on the plan at a special meeting Wednesday.

At the SEA’s board meeting, former Pittsburgh councilman Sala Udin was the only dissenting vote on the new plan. He urged the board to wait, and to approve a period of public input.

“We are public servants,” he said. “We’re not private business people. We are doing the people’s business. This is their property. And we are entrusted to make the best decisions we can on their behalf.”

The original October 22 deadline to agree on a new plan was extended twice. The agreement to begin work has been the subject of intense negotiations for weeks.

The Penguins have agreements with developers to build an entertainment district and 1,000 units of housing in the Lower Hill, 20 percent of which will be affordable to people earning 60 percent of area median income. Pens Chief Operating Officer Travis Williams said they expect to begin development on both in late 2018.

“The Penguins remain committed to this development,” he said. “In particular wanting to make it something the region can be very proud of and that the community can benefit from.”

Acklin and the Penguins’ Chief Operating Officer Travis Williams committed to holding a public meeting on the plan.

The text of the amended development agreement has not been released.

Margaret J. Krauss is WESA’s senior reporter. She covers development and transportation, and has produced award-winning podcasts on housing, work, and Pittsburgh’s lesser-known history. Before joining the newsroom full time, she covered the challenges facing Pennsylvania cities as a statewide reporter, and spent another life as an assistant editor for National Geographic Kids Magazine in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at mkrauss@wesa.fm.