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Penguins receive another extension to buy part of former Civic Arena site

Bob Bauder
| Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, 6:18 p.m.
The former site of the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh's Lower Hill District is seen from the 20th floor of the Marriott City Center.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
The former site of the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh's Lower Hill District is seen from the 20th floor of the Marriott City Center.

Pittsburgh officials once again extended a deadline for the Penguins to buy a portion of the former Civic Arena property in the Lower Hill District or risk losing one of the parcels.

Board members with the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority agreed to move the deadline to Nov. 9. The team has until then to reach a deal or face losing 2.1 acres of the property.

This is the second time in two weeks the respective boards adopted deadline extensions.

The Penguins had until Oct. 22 to purchase the first parcel of land on the 28-acre site for development, but the city is negotiating an amended agreement with the team and needed more time to finalize details, SEA Executive Director Mary Conturo said.

“We've been in discussions, but we think it would be beneficial to give it a little bit more time,” Conturo said. “We think there could be opportunity to resolve some things in a manner that would be beneficial to both sides.”

SEA board member Jim Ellenbogen, an Allegheny County councilman, and URA board member Jim Ferlo, a former state senator from Highland Park, voted no on the extensions.

“I think this has dragged on long enough, and I think (the Penguins) need to get off the dime on this,” Ellenbogen said.

Ferlo asked the URA for legal research on taking the property through eminent domain.

“I voted no because I think we should begin to take back the acreage,” Ferlo said. “There's not been any development or movement. I think there are any number of developers that would relish the opportunity to move forward on the site.”

Pittsburgh City Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle of the Hill District, who serves on the URA board, vowed it would be the last time he supports an extension.

David Morehouse, the Penguins president and CEO, issued a statement saying the team has spent millions on predevelopment work. He noted that the team is partnering with St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Salazar and Chicago-based Clayco Inc. on residential and office projects and hired the Denmark-based architectural firm Bjarke Ingles Group for an open space plan.

“We are also in discussions with a retail/entertainment developer for a unique destination entertainment concept and have entered into an agreement with a minority-owned developer for a portion of the residential development,” he said. “The Penguins have always fulfilled our commitments and intend to do so again with this important development project.”

Morehouse added that the Pittsburgh Penguins and Mario Lemieux foundations have donated millions for regional projects.

Officials would not discuss specific details of the negotiations, but confirmed that talks include a reduction of $15 million in credits that the Penguins can draw on to purchase the arena land. The SEA would be responsible to pay the Penguins the cash equivalent of any credits left over after the property is developed.

Under the existing development agreement, the team is required to buy at least 2.1 acres per year but has received a series of six-month extensions dating to 2015.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, or @bobbauder.

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