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Penn Hills council seeks a million in casino-revenue funding

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Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011

Penn Hills council is expected to approve a resolution on Monday that confirms its intent to pursue casino revenue for infrastructure development at the former East Hills Shopping Center on Robinson Boulevard.

Penn Hills Planning Director Howard Davidson said council gave him verbal approval to submit an application to the county's Gaming Economic Development Fund in time to meet an Oct. 28 deadline. Council discussed the application at its Oct. 17 workshop meeting.

"We applied for a million dollars to develop an industrial park on the property, to install infrastructure and create building-ready parcels, and, hopefully, revitalize the neighborhood and create jobs for the community," Davidson said.

The 44-acre property straddles Penn Hills, Wilkinsburg and Pittsburgh, and Davidson said he emphasized in his application that more than $2.5 million already had been spent by the county to demolish old buildings on the site and that the project is regional in scope, he said.

The property, owned by Petra International Ministries of Penn Hills and its offshoot, Operation Nehemiah, once was touted as the future home of a Lowe's and Walmart, but both companies have scrapped their plans to move there.

Other projects council considered for the application included a riverfront bicycle trail that has been in the works conceptually for some time, and development of the former Atlas cement plant and U.S. Steel slag dump, which comprise nearly all of Penn Hills' industrial acreage.

Council chose developing the shopping center land because the project would have the greatest potential for local job growth. The project has been dubbed Eastgate Commerce Center, although there are as yet no concrete plans.

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