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Parking, traffic dominate discussion on Civic Arena redevelopment

Tom Fontaine
| Monday, Oct. 13, 2014, 2:47 p.m.
The site of the former Civic Arena and the surrounding parking lots in the Uptown neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
Steven Adams | Tribune-Review
The site of the former Civic Arena and the surrounding parking lots in the Uptown neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

More than $500 million in development planned on the former Civic Arena site will force hundreds of motorists to look Downtown and to the North Shore and elsewhere for parking on work days and game days, Pittsburgh Penguins officials said Monday.

“It's clear we have a growing parking dilemma,” said Jeanne McNutt, executive director of the neighborhood advocacy group Uptown Partners.

McNutt and about 50 others attended a public meeting at Duquesne University about the Penguins' preliminary development plans. A crowd more than twice as large attended the contentious first public meeting last week in the Hill District.

Development of the Civic Arena site will gobble about 3,200 parking spaces available to commuters and fans attending Penguins games, concerts and other events across Centre Avenue at Consol Energy Center.

About 2,400 spaces will be developed, but many will be reserved for residents and office workers, said Penguins Chief Operating Officer Travis Williams. Plans call for development of 1,185 housing units, and lots of office space and commercial development.

About 2,000 commuters a day use the arena lot, including an estimated 800 employees of UPMC Mercy, Uptown. Event-goers fill the lot regularly.

“We are aware that many parking spaces on the (arena) site will be lost. We are working to identify the best alternatives for parking for UPMC Mercy associates,” UPMC spokeswoman Susan Manko said.

The 28-acre site likely would include 800 to 1,200 spaces for event-goers when the area is redeveloped, but it's unclear how many spaces commuters would be able to access, Williams said.

“The number will be substantially reduced,” Williams said.

Cynthia Jampole of the Robinson-based Trans Associates, a transportation consultant on the Pens' project, said, “There will have to be a change in traffic patterns,” noting many commuters will need to look for spaces Downtown or in other areas, such as the North Shore, or they will have to consider carpooling or using public transit. Downtown has more than 28,000 parking spaces and another 8,000 are available on the North Shore.

Outside regular business hours, Jampole said spaces will be readily available in those areas for people attending evening or weekend events at Consol.

“There are reasonable alternatives,” Jampole said.

The reduction in parking on the former arena site, along with construction of new roads there, could ease traffic congestion after Consol events, officials said. Jampole predicted congestion “should be equal to or less than it is now” once the former Civic Arena site is developed.

Louise Smith, 75, of Arthur Street in the Hill, said, “Residents can barely get to their homes for dinner when there are games.”

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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