Civic Arena demolition gets judge's approval

| Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011

A federal judge on Friday moved the Igloo one step closer to demolition, but the battle to save the building is not over.

U.S. District Judge David Cercone threw out a lawsuit that a preservation group filed in an attempt to save the Civic Arena. Preservation Pittsburgh said it would appeal the decision.

The group sued seven local and federal officials on July 7 in an attempt to stop the planned demolition. It asked a judge to block demolition on the grounds that tearing down the arena violates the National Historic Preservation Act by using federal highway money to redevelop the 28-acre site.

The judge disagreed.

"Plaintiff has failed to convince this court that there is any federal involvement with the Civic Arena demolition and redevelopment project," Cercone wrote.

Attorneys for Preservation Pittsburgh filed a request yesterday with Cercone seeking an order to halt any demolition plans while they appeal.

"Obviously we're disappointed. We really wanted to have our day in court," said Scott Leib, head of Preservation Pittsburgh."There's no political will to do something with our iconic Civic Arena. It really is a sad day in Pittsburgh."

The city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority, which owns the building, has voted to demolish the building since it opened the Consol Energy Center across Centre Avenue. A contract with the Penguins gives the team development rights to the arena site.

"We're very pleased with the court's decision, and we're gratified the court accepted the legal arguments we put forward," said Mary Conturo, executive director of the authority.

She said crews have been removing asbestos from inside the arena and next will remove asbestos from the roof panels.

"There is no order of court that prevents us from moving forward," Conturo said. "Our intention is to proceed under the normal course of demolition."

The lawsuit named her as a defendant along with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato.

The judge's decision to toss out the lawsuit "is good news to hear," Ravenstahl's press secretary Joanna Doven said. "It's very important to have it demolished so that development can occur and that Pittsburgh's Third Renaissance continues into the Hill District."

Representatives for the Penguins have said the 50-year-old arena would impede development efforts.

Preservation Pittsburgh claimed in its lawsuit that because federal money is involved in rebuilding the street grid of the Lower Hill District, the Federal Highway Administration, by law, is required to "consider the impacts of the project on historic and natural resources."

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