Penguins expect to choose developer soon for former Civic Arena site

Housing part of plan

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have negotiated new contracts with some of their big-name players in recent weeks. But the biggest signing this summer could occur off the ice.

Team officials are hoping to reach a deal with a developer to start the residential portion of the former Civic Arena redevelopment in a few weeks.

Three of the firms in the running for the work are McCormack Baron Salazar, KBK Enterprises and Dawson Co., all of which have ties to Pittsburgh.

Travis Williams, the Penguins' chief operating officer, confirmed that all three developers are being considered for the arena project, but added that the team has talked to a number of others as well.

"We've been having conversations with a lot of developers over the last few years," he said.

St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Salazar may be best known as the developer of Crawford Square, the successful apartment and single-family home development in the Hill District just above the arena site. It features more than 400 rental units and for-sale homes, half of them at market rate.

The residential component of the 28-acre arena development in the lower Hill could start as an extension of Crawford Square. McCormack Baron Salazar also has been involved in the Bedford Hills apartment development in the Hill and the Fairfield Apartments development in East Liberty.

Columbus, Ohio-based KBK Enterprises currently is leading the reconstruction of the Addison Terrace public housing community in the Hill, a redevelopment that eventually will produce 400 units, roughly half of them for low-income families. It also was involved in the 43-unit Mackey Lofts apartment complex that just opened in Uptown and the 225-unit Garfield Commons development in Garfield.

Atlanta-based Dawson currently is serving as a consultant to the Penguins in their discussions with the Hill community regarding the arena redevelopment. Dawson also has teamed with Massaro Properties on a proposed 320-unit, garden-style apartment development on Port Authority land near the South Hills Village T station. Massaro Dawson is negotiating with the Port Authority to try to finalize the deal.

Both KBK and Dawson are minority-owned companies. Hill leaders have been vocal in their desire to have minority representation in the arena development. In fact, the Hill Community Development Corp. is seeking a commitment from the Penguins for 35-percent minority-owned and 15-percent women-owned business participation in the "ownership, development, design construction, operation and management" of the project.

Hill leaders also want for-sale housing included in the mix of residential options, based on studies that have shown that when home ownership drops below 30 percent in communities, it contributes to higher levels of crime and lower-performing schools.

Another organization, the Hill Consensus Group, wants 30 percent of all housing built on the former arena property to be available to low-income residents.

Mr. Williams said the Penguins intend to start the redevelopment of the site with housing. While many believe that will begin as an extension of Crawford Square, Mr. Williams wouldn't commit to that.

"We don't have a set vision yet for the residential piece. Once a developer is selected, we'll be able to describe the vision a little more clearly," he said.

He added there is a possibility that the Penguins could end up with more than one developer for the residential phase of the project.

The team currently is planning 1,192 residential units. The proposed redevelopment also consists of 691,962 square feet of office space and 200,101 square feet of retail space. There's also talk of a 150-room hotel and a 2,310-seat cineplex.

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


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