City to address Penguins' concerns of possible contamination at former Civic Arena site
December 7, 2016 12:00 AM
The site of the old Civic Arena with PPG Paints Arena, formerly the Consol Energy Center.
By Mark Belko / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pittsburgh Penguins first raised concerns about possible environmental contamination at the former Civic Arena site in March. Now the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority is planning to hire a consultant to help address such worries.
URA board members are expected to vote Thursday on a proposed agreement totaling up to $250,000 with Duquesne-based KU Resources to evaluate the extent of any contamination and how to address it.
The issue is one of the factors that has delayed the start of the first phase of a 1,200-unit residential development planned by the Penguins on the upper part of the arena site on land owned by the URA.
Under its agreement with the agency and the city-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority, the professional hockey team was supposed to begin the work in October. Instead, it paid $75,000 to buy another six months of time to start the project.
The Penguins, who own the development rights to the 28-acre publicly owned arena site, first raised the issue in a March letter of intent, saying they and their developer, St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Salazar, might not be able to meet the deadline because of several issues, including possible contamination and a $5 million funding gap.
They traced the potential environmental problem to the demolition of buildings in the 1950s to clear the way for construction of the arena.
Earlier this year, Travis Williams, the team’s chief operating officer, said that additional testing and the development of a remediation plan could hamper the start of the 175-unit first phase.
Team officials declined comment Tuesday, as did Kevin Acklin, URA’s board chairman and chief of staff to Mayor Bill Peduto. He said details of the contract were still being worked out.
Back in May, Mr. Acklin said the Penguins shouldn’t have been surprised that there were environmental issues at the site and shouldn’t have waited so long to address them.
In an email Tuesday, Mr. Acklin did state that his understanding is that the proposed contract with KU Resources would “authorize the completion of customary environmental testing at the housing development site, as there were alleged gaps in previous testing.”
KU Resources also would provide a geotechnical assessment of the conditions to assist in design and construction efforts, and help craft a remediation plan acceptable to the state.
According to a report accompanying the agenda item, the contract is contingent on the completion of a reimbursement agreement with the Penguins and McCormack Baron Salazar.
In addition to buying more time for the first phase of the housing, the Penguins also have paid $225,000 for three extensions related to a proposed office development on the site. The team had signed U.S. Steel to build a new headquarters there, only to see the deal collapse because of the company’s financial problems.
Mark Belko: email@example.com or 412-263-1262.
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