Hill District leaders push development agenda for former Civic Arena site

One of key issues is affordable housing at former Civic Arena site

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Hill District leaders pushed their development agenda for the former Civic Arena site, including the need for more affordable housing than the Penguins are promising, in a meeting Tuesday with Mayor Bill Peduto.

While Mr. Peduto did not commit to embracing all of the leaders’ agenda, he is hoping to use the information to “bridge the gap” in the discussions between the hockey team and the community over unresolved issues.

The goal is to “make sure that the priorities that we’ve heard are integrated into the development,” Kevin Acklin, Mr. Peduto’s chief of staff, said after the meeting.

“Nothing they’re asking for is unreasonable. I think the question is, how does it fit with the overall plan for the development,” he said.

The team and Hill leaders have been divided over several issues that have the potential to delay the start of a 28-acre redevelopment that would include nearly 1,200 residential units, 691,962 square feet of office space and 200,101 square feet of retail space.

One of the key issues is affordable housing. Hill leaders want 30 percent of the units to be priced low enough to be within the means of lower-income residents, while the Penguins have set the limit at 20 percent.

Hill leaders also are pushing to create a dedicated revenue stream generated by the development to be used to fund redevelopment in other parts of the neighborhood and to have a percentage of the pre-construction, construction and post-construction work set aside for Hill residents and businesses.

They also are seeking a voice in the decision-making regarding the development “to ensure that what gets built is in the best interest of not just the Penguins but the community as well,” said city Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle, who represents the Hill.

He described the meeting, also attended by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, as “productive.”

“There was no hard and fast commitment, but I believe based on what’s been said previously by the mayor — that he wants to see this done right, that he wants to be supportive of the community — so I look forward to his full support,” he said.

With the Penguins and the community in accord on many issues, Mr. Lavelle is hoping that the two sides, with the help of the mayor, can iron out the unresolved concerns fairly quickly.

The team, which won the development rights to the 28-acre former arena site in the deal to build Consol Energy Center, was not part of Tuesday’s meeting. The next step, Mr. Acklin said, is to set up another meeting with the community next week — possibly with participation by the team. The administration has been meeting separately with the Penguins to discuss the development.

Team officials are facing an October deadline to draw down the first parcels for development and may not be able to make it unless outstanding issues are resolved soon.

Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.

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