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Pens look to Philly for ideas on developing former Civic Arena site

| Thursday, June 28, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

A little Philly-inspired flair could find its way into the Penguins' backyard.

Penguins officials said Wednesday they have spoken with the creators of Xfinity Live! Philadelphia, a 60,000-square-foot, sports-themed entertainment complex, in search of ideas they could weave into the retail and restaurant component of the 28-acre development site near Consol Energy Center in the Lower Hill District where the Civic Arena once stood.

Xfinity Live! Philadelphia opened on March 30 on the site of the now-demolished Spectrum in South Philadelphia. It's next to the Wells Fargo Center, Citizens Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field, the homes of the Philadelphia Flyers, Phillies and Eagles.

“We don't envision the 28 acres as being a pure entertainment district, but there could be a bit of the Xfinity Live!-type of entertainment and dining options there to support that area,” said Tom McMillan, a Penguins spokesman.

McMillan said the cross-state sites differ in some key ways, which translates into different market needs. In Pittsburgh, more than a decade of market studies show there's enough demand to support about 1,200 housing units, 600,000 square feet of offices and 250,000 square feet of retail and restaurant establishments on the edge of the Golden Triangle and across the street from the Consol center, home of the Penguins.

In Philadelphia, the entertainment district is designed to cater to the roughly 8.5 million hockey, football and baseball fans who attend games at the nearby sports venues each year. It features six bars and restaurants bedecked with large, HD TV screens and 14 parking lots.

The Penguins' plans are still in the conceptual stage. A 2007 option agreement that gives the hockey team the right to develop the former Civic Arena site over 10 years requires that the first portion be developed within two years after the arena is demolished and replaced with a parking lot. If it isn't developed by then, the Penguins lose the right to that portion of the development. The parking lot is set to open in August.

Speculation on a potential major office tenant interested in the development has centered on U.S. Steel, which is examining whether to relocate from the U.S. Steel Tower, where the largest tenant now is UPMC.

A U.S. Steel spokesman wouldn't confirm interest in the Penguins development, but didn't rule it out.

“We are exploring alternatives in order to arrive at the best long-term business solution for our company when our lease in the U. S. Steel Tower expires in 2017,” spokesman Charles Rice said.

Jeremy Boren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7935 or jboren@tribweb.com.

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