Redevelopment grant would speed work at site where Civic Arena stood
The Sports & Exhibition Authority is rethinking its schedule to develop the site of the former Civic Arena now that it has applied for a federal grant that could be worth $18 million.
The authority had expected to begin work in July at the 28-acre site in the lower Hill District. That changed when officials decided in late spring to pursue the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant and delayed construction plans until 2014, Executive Director Mary Conturo said on Thursday.
Initial plans for the site called for designing and building the project in phases as subsidies to pay for work that could reach $38 million to $40 million became available.
“Now, with the TIGER, what we're going to do is design the whole thing,” Conturo said.
The SEA owns the site, now a temporary 883-space parking lot for commuters and events at Consol Energy Center, and is paying for utility lines, roads street lights and other infrastructure upgrades. The Penguins have a 10-year option to buy parcels of the site and have proposed building a mix of offices, housing and entertainment venues on the site.
“Everything is in good shape,” Travis Williams, Penguins chief operating officer, said. “We feel really confident where we are concerning the infrastructure.”
The Penguins expect to begin construction by the end of 2014, Williams said.
The team is in talks with several developers, including McCormack Baron Salazar of St. Louis, KBK Enterprises of Columbus, Ohio, and Dawson Co. of Atlanta.
Delays in starting the project have not caused concern for the Penguins. Williams is confident the SEA will pull together the money needed to complete the project.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald shared Williams' optimism.
“This site is going to be developed,” Fitzgerald said. “There is too much demand out there, and there is too much interest. It's very prime real estate.”
The deadline to apply for the grant was June 3. The transportation department expects to announce the grant awards by fall.
The start of construction depends on funding, Conturo said. The project has secured $15 million, paid in $5 million installments, from the state's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, which the authority would use to match the grant, if the SEA's application is successful.
The authority is using other funding — grants and revenue from taxes — to pay for the initial designs by engineering firm Michael Baker Corp. of Moon.
The SEA's board of directors on Thursday approved more than $283,000 for preliminary designs for Centre Avenue, Washington Place, Bedford Avenue and Crawford Street, which border the site, and to cover added costs from artifacts unearthed during an archeological study.
Nearly 3,000 artifacts, mostly ceramic and glass containers from the late 19th to mid-20th centuries, have been found. The authority has approved a contract for designs of the street grid.
Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.