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Pittsburgh eyes plan to resolve impasse over Hill District project on former Civic Arena site

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Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, 10:36 p.m.
 

Pittsburgh's top elected officials say they agree on how to get development of the Civic Arena site in the Hill District back on track before year's end.

Now they need the Penguins franchise, which has development rights to the 28-acre property, and community groups to back the plan.

“(Leaders) want to see this development be transformational and go to the Middle and Upper Hill and for (residents) to have some wealth-building, jobs and housing that people can afford,” U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, said on Tuesday. A day earlier he hosted a meeting with city and county elected officials on the development plan.

Doyle and others who attended the meeting refused to offer specifics on how they propose to resolve an impasse between community groups and the Penguins that centers on the amount of cut-rate housing in the residential portion of the $500 million development. Retail shops and entertainment also are in the mix.

Officials at the meeting said talks focused on residents' concerns about jobs, affordable housing and minority- and woman-owned business participation in all phases of the development.

“There was a framework that was generally agreed to by all the elected officials on how to both address the community's concerns and the Penguins' concerns,” said City Councilman Daniel Lavelle, D-Hill District.

The Penguins declined to comment.

Lavelle said he and Kevin Acklin, Mayor Bill Peduto's chief of staff, will draft a proposal and present it to the Penguins and community groups.

Doyle said he hopes to see the draft within days and have it ready to sign before month's end.

Once all sides approve, he said, the city will be in better position to win an $18 million to $20 million federal grant for development of the property. It would permit the Penguins to begin the first phase of development this year.

The Penguins have asked the Stadium & Exhibition Authority, which owns the property, for a one-year extension of an Oct. 31 deadline to begin initial development.

“It's my hope (the extension) won't be necessary, that we'll be able to begin construction and begin developing the land this year,” Lavelle said.

Marimba Milliones, executive director of the Hill Community Development Corp., said she didn't attend the meeting but expects the agreement to mirror what residents want.

Milliones said residents want a minority- and woman-owned business participation rates of 35 and 15 percent, respectively. The Penguins have pledged 25 and 10 percent, she said. She said the Penguins have offered to make 20 percent of about 1,100 apartments on the site affordable for people who earn 80 percent of area median income. Residents want 30 percent of apartments to be affordable for people earning 30 to 80 percent of the area median income.

“Nobody is expecting them to come up with an entirely new plan after all these months of negotiations,” she said.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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