Pens Reach Deal to Develop Arena Site

Sep 9, 2014

The Pittsburgh Penguins say they should be able to begin developing the 28 acres that once held the Civic Arena in the next six to nine months thanks to a deal that city leaders believe will positively impact the entire Hill District and Uptown.

“Not everybody has enjoyed some of the success that has happened over the last couple of years,” said Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald, while noting that some city neighborhoods like Lawrenceville and Downtown have recently seen millions of dollars in economic development while others have been stagnant. “This is a way to go into those (under developed) neighborhoods and provide those opportunities for people who have not had them in the past.”

The deal between the Penguins and the Lower Hill Working Group must still be approved by the Sports and Exhibition Authority and the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority, which both meet Thursday. In the next three to six months specific plans will be created to begin work with ground breaking in the next nine to twelve months, according to the Penguins.

As the site is developed, a portion of the increased tax income from the development will be moved into a fund that will support redevelopment in the Middle and Upper Hill and Uptown. 

“At its worst case this district will generate $22 million and as much as $50 million,” Peduto said.

The URA will manage the funds.

The Penguins have already set out basic goals for the development; 1,100 residential units, 500,000-600,000 square feet of office space,  and 250,000 square feet of retail space. Of that, 20 percent of the housing will be categorized as affordable with rents as low as $600 per month. 

250 of the housing units will be built by minority developers. Most of that is expected to come in the first phase of the development.

The deal calls for 30 percent of the work to be done by minority owned businesses and an additional 15 percent by women owned businesses.  That rate is higher than is required under city law and Councilman Daniel Lavalle says at times it will not be easy to live up to those requirements.  He said the goal of the requirement is to not only employ members of the monitory community but to also build capacity among small businesses, which will then be able to redevelop other low income neighborhoods.

“I believe the Hill District Community will get a new commercial corridor through Center Avenue, I believe the Hill District Community will receive new housing all throughout the middle and upper Hill Districts, I believe the Hill District Community will receive job training and programing,” Lavalle said.

The civic arena was torn down in 2011 and 2012.  The site has been used as a parking lot and has occasionally played host to Penguins watching parties and other sports related events. 

The arena was seen as the height of urban revitalization when it was built in 1961 but over the decades it has largely become know as a leading reasons why the Hill District has become one of the poorest areas of the city.

“The ability to reconnect the Hill District to the number two job center in the state of Pennsylvania is critical,” Lavalle said.