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URA Still Hopeful As Penguins Halt Lower Hill Development

F.N.B. Corporation, the parent company of First National Bank and the Pittsburgh Penguins, signed on as the anchor tenant for FNB Financial Center in Downtown Pittsburgh.


On today's program: The fate of the former Civic Arena site is again in limbo; for many, decision-making has changed due to coronavirus; and lots of conservation efforts have been put on hold during the pandemic.

Penguins plan to stop development at former Civic Arena site
(oo:oo — 8:11) 

City Councilor and Urban Redevelopment Authority board member Daniel Lavelle says he thinks "cooler heads will prevail" in the coming days as Pittsburgh Penguins president and CEO David Morehouse mulls his statement Thursday declaring an end to the long-awaited development of the Lower Hill District.

The franchise was slated to begin its first project on the 28-acre site: a 26-story office tower and new headquarters for First National Bank. Morehouse issued a stoppage just minutes after the URA unanimously voted to approvals by two weeks to give the Lower Hill community time to look over project details.

The Penguins have had the development rights for nearly a decade, and in October received preliminary agreement from the URA to move ahead with phase one of the revitalization.

Both Lavelle and fellow URA board member Jodi Hirsh say they didn't have enough time to review all the documents themselves, let alone share them with their neighbors. Lavelle calls the move "a bully tactic."

"I’m not sure why they did that," he says. "But nonetheless I certainly believe we’ll all be able to get back around the table and advance this.”

Hirsh says she’s concerned that Hill District families are going to be “left in the dust” by the Penguins.  

“I hope there is a way to come out of this giving the public the benefit they deserve, but I’m not super hopeful.”

PublicSource's Rich Lord reports the URA board is planning to move forward with a vote this week on proposed terms for construction.

Uncertain circumstances change people’s tolerance for risk
(8:21 — 12:53) 

People do risky things all the time, like getting behind the wheel of a car. But they don’t actively calculate the risk each time they drive, because it’s so routine. These days, once-simple tasks like going to the grocery store can present people with all kinds of new risks and choices. 

90.5 WESA’s Liz Reid spoke with Carnegie Mellon University professor Gretchen Chapman about the psychology of decision-making during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus delays conservation efforts in PA
(13:01 — 17:34) 

Many sectors of the economy have been halted or changed by the coronavirus pandemic, and environmental research is no exception

The Allegheny Front’s Kara Holsopple checks in on Tree Pittsburgh's annual planting season, migratory bird banding and tracking projects, and the Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program, which gathers information about important plant and animal species across the state. 

“It’s important to conserve the environment, and collect data that would help us do that,” said Luke DeGroote, avian research coordinator at Powdermill Nature Reserve. “But at the same time, it’s more important right now to stop the spread of disease, and so we have to put [research] on hold. But that can be a hard thing to accept.”

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago.
Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at
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