Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto says it's time to move on from Civic Arena razing

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Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto doesn’t want to fight the battle over the Civic Arena all over again.

Mr. Peduto, who as a city councilman opposed the demolition of the domed landmark with the retractable stainless steel roof, said Thursday that it’s time to move on.

“The one thing I learned in council is that you make your point, you fight for your point, and you vote your point and then you have to move on. It’s the only way to see progress,” he said.

“I can’t bring the arena back. I think we could have used it in an adaptive way and in a reuse that could have been unique. However, that day’s passed so now I have a big area that needs to be redeveloped and I intend to redevelop it in order to help to redevelop the Hill as well.”

The mayor was responding to an April 21 letter sent by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to the federal Economic Development Administration urging it to defer action on a $3 million grant request related to the property’s redevelopment until it had investigated the circumstances surrounding the demolition.

During the battle over the arena several years ago, local preservationists accused the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority, the building owner, of engaging in “anticipatory demolition” in violation of section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, which requires an extensive review of a property to determine its historic value before it can be altered or razed.

They warned that repercussions for such behavior could include the loss of federal funds for the proposed office, residential and commercial development being proposed by the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team for the 28-acre site.

Mr. Peduto said that he’s not surprised that the National Trust is raising the issue now because it indicated it would do so during the debate over the venue.

But he also knows there’s the matter of finding $30 million to build the roads and utilities needed to support the proposed redevelopment. So far the SEA has cobbled together about $15 million.

“We need to redevelop the land. Taking a position of just ‘told you so’ and seeing a parking lot as the best and only use of 28 acres is not in the best interest of the city of Pittsburgh,” the mayor said.

Mary Conturo, the SEA’s executive director, has called the National Trust’s objections “groundless.”

Mr. Peduto said he would not ask the National Trust to drop its concerns. “That’s really their call. That’s their mission and that’s not something I would tell them to do one way or the other,” he said.

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

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