Three years after the final event at the Civic Arena — a James Taylor/Carole King reunion concert — and 15 months after the demolition of the arena was completed, the Pittsburgh Penguins are nearly ready to submit their plan for reuse of that site.
The deal that kept the Penguins from leaving town included the building of a new facility, the Consol Energy Center, and the development rights for the 28 acres on which the old arena and parking lots sat.
Travis Williams, chief operating officer of the Penguins, said their Preliminary Land Development Plan will likely be submitted to the City Planning Commission in the middle of this month. That plan includes 1,100 to 1,200 housing units, about 200,000 square feet of retail and 600,000 square feet of office space.
Williams said in developing this preliminary plan they’ve involved elected officials and Hill District community leaders.
“Because it is situated in a blighted community, one that is because of the development of the Civic Arena ironically was decimated," he said. "While we (the Penguins) didn’t necessarily create that, we feel an obligation as the organization who has the development rights to find a way to make sure the community benefits.”
And to do that he said they’ve been focusing on jobs and opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses.
“Making sure there is opportunities for them to participate either in the design or development or construction of the site or even to have opportunities once the site’s completed, whether that be retail opportunities or some sort of service provider to the industries or the businesses that will be located there,” Williams said.
In the meantime, the Sports and Exhibition Authority, the official owner of the property, will present to City Council this month a street grid plan that aims to link the Hill District with downtown Pittsburgh. Wylie Avenue, which now ends at Crawford Street, would be extended through the development site to Washington Place. The SEA is considering building a “cap” over the Crosstown Expressway with walk and bike paths to downtown.
Williams said they will pursue LEED certification for the whole development.
“We have not identified whether we’re going to be just LEED N-D (neighborhood development) certified or whether we’ll have a rating of gold, silver or platinum, in large part because this is going to be the first LEED N-D development in the entire state of Pennsylvania," he said. "So, it’s something fairly new to this area, and we’re working to make sure we’re capturing the points to achieve that.”
Williams said once the Penguins submit their proposal to the City Planning Commission there will be more community outreach with four to six larger meetings.
“Some of them targeted to specific questions or areas of concern or discussion points we need to have — transportation or housing, things like that,” he said.
Williams said they hope to get the go ahead in the fall, and then the Sports and Exhibition Authority can begin work on the infrastructure.
Jennifer Jordan of The Allegheny Front contributed to this story.