Architect predicts Aug. 1 completion of Pittsburgh's new arena

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This is one igloo that will be done in the dog days of summer.

The Consol Energy Center, the Penguins' new home, is on target for an Aug. 1 completion, well ahead of the start of the 2010-2011 hockey season.

Wayne London, principal of architect Populous, formerly HOK Sport Venue Event, told city planning commission members yesterday the $321 million arena should be finished by then, barring a major setback.

"We have every reason to believe it will happen. They're doing a great job," he said of contractors.

During their meeting, planning commissioners also got their first glimpse of plans for a proposed $80 million to $90 million hotel and condominium development at the site of the former Edge restaurant on Mount Washington.

Ken Sawyer, the Penguins' chief executive officer, said the arena "most likely" would open to the public sometime in September.

Still undecided is whether the team will christen the new building with a preseason hockey game or some other type of performance.

At the same time, Mr. Sawyer said there was no reason to believe that the new arena wouldn't be ready in time for the start of the National Hockey League regular season.

"What I can say is that the project is proceeding exceedingly well. We don't foresee any delays that would jeopardize being completely ready for the start of the season," he said.

Mr. London told the planning commission the building should be fully enclosed from the elements by the end of the year.

The "ice sheet" -- the concrete and pipes used to make ice -- should be put into place right after that, ahead of schedule.

"They're flying over there," he said.

Mr. Sawyer was a bit more conservative, saying the project so far was "on time."

He said the overall construction was not far enough along to estimate whether it's ahead of schedule or not.

The completion date came up as the planning commission voted unanimously to approve the building's signage, which not only involves the naming rights secured by Consol Energy, but also sponsorships to the arena's three main entrances.

So far, though, there are no plans for a giant marquee outside of the building similar to the one across the street at Mellon Arena.

Mr. Sawyer said the team, which will run the new arena, would like to have some type of marquee to promote games and other events but is still considering various options.

However, don't worry hockey fans.

The Penguins do plan to continue at the new arena the tradition of showing playoff and other special games like this year's opener on a big screen set up outdoors. The exact site has yet to be determined but one possibility is the plaza that will sit between the Epiphany Church and the arena entrance near Centre Avenue, Mr. Sawyer said.

Meanwhile, developer Steven Beemsterboer and architect Charles L. Desmone hope to break ground by next summer on One Grandview Avenue, the proposed hotel and condo project to be built on about four acres, including the Edge restaurant.

The development would feature a 110- to 115-room, four or five star hotel and 50 to 55 condominiums that would sit on the hillside and wrap around a giant plaza.

The condos, based on initial estimates, would start at $380,000 to $390,000, Mr. Desmone said.

Before the project can move forward, Mr. Beemsterboer and Mr. Desmone are hoping to get the zoning of the site, now a combination of Grandview public realm, local neighborhood commercial and multifamily, changed to planned urban district, which allows a mix of residential and commercial.

Without the change, the development, as currently proposed, cannot be completed, said Kevin McKeegan, the project's attorney.

In addition, Mr. Beemsterboer said the zoning change was critical to securing financing for the project.

While the economy and tight credit markets have derailed numerous developments, Mr. Beemsterboer is hopeful One Grandview Avenue will be different.

"We have another six months to a year before we break ground so we hope the economy is back by then," he said. "From what discussions we've had, there seems to be money out there for 'A list' quality projects, and we feel this is one of them."

A public hearing will be held before the planning commission on the proposed zoning change in four weeks.


Mark Belko can be reached at mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.


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