SEA urged to use a portion of parking revenue to support Hill

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The leader of the Hill District Consensus Group is pushing the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority to back his plan to divert a portion of the parking revenues from public lots near the Consol Energy Center to fund Hill improvements.

Carl Redwood lobbied the SEA board Thursday to get behind his "A Dollar A Car For The Hill" campaign and to ensure that the plans to redevelop the former Civic Arena site include affordable housing and space for Hill businesses.

For the next 28 years, Mr. Redwood wants the Penguins to contribute $1 from the fee paid to park each car at the public lots to a Hill improvement fund that would be used to make home repairs, provide transportation for Hill residents, spruce up business corridors and improve playing fields and cultural arts programs for youngsters.

"We have to make them try to do right," he said.

The team has the rights to the parking revenue under an agreement with the SEA. The money would come from the permanent lots near Consol and the temporary lot being installed where the demolished Civic Arena stood.

Mr. Redwood argued that the Penguins should be forced to divert parking revenue to the Hill fund because of the money the team received to build the Consol Energy Center. The new arena is being financed largely through a $7.5 million annual contribution from Rivers Casino and $7.5 million a year from a gambling-financed state economic development fund.

He also pointed out that the SEA was trying to raise $40 million to pay for infrastructure improvements in support of a proposed Penguins-led redevelopment of the 28-acre Civic Arena site, including the parking lots. He said the new arena and related investments have helped to increase the value of the team for its owners.

"When a company like the Penguins or any company receives a large public subsidy, there has to be a return and we need to figure out what that return is and be able to measure that return," he said.

The Penguins are contributing $1 million toward the construction of a Shop 'n Save grocery in the Hill under a community benefits agreement reached with neighborhood leaders, but Mr. Redwood said that's not enough given the money the Penguins have received.

Mr. Redwood said his grassroots community group also wants the team to ensure that 30 percent of all housing built on the Civic Arena site will be affordable, that Hill businesses will be included in the plans, and that all contracts awarded for redevelopment will include 30 percent minority business and 15 percent women business participation.

Team officials declined comment. SEA board members listened to Mr. Redwood's pitch without making comment.

The Hill is expected to receive $1 million of the $2 million in parking tax revenue projected to be generated through 2016 on the temporary Civic Arena parking lot under legislation passed by City Council. The city Urban Redevelopment Authority plans to use the $1 million for various capital projects in the Hill. The other half will go to the SEA to help pay for the infrastructure for the site.

Another Hill District Consensus Group member, Renee Aldrich, chastised the Penguins and the SEA for not moving ahead with a public art project outside of Consol called "Curtain Call," which includes a walkway, a rain garden and photos of Hill residents.

Doug Straley, SEA project executive, said both the agency and the Penguins are trying to raise the $1.5 million needed for the project but so far have been unsuccessful.

neigh_city - businessnews

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


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