The redevelopment of the 28-acre former Civic Arena site has received a shot in the arm with the award of a $5 million state capital grant to help finance infrastructure work.
Mary Conturo, executive director of the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority, said Wednesday that the redevelopment assistance capital grant announced last week was "critical" to the efforts to bring housing, offices and shops to the site in the lower Hill District.
"This gets us started. It gets us in the ground. It's an important step," she said.
The state grant is the first piece of money the SEA has received to cover the cost -- estimated at $40 million -- of installing water, storm and sanitary sewer lines throughout the site and to begin construction of a street grid to reconnect the property to the Hill District.
Ms. Conturo believes the work can be done in phases, as funding becomes available. The $5 million would help to fund an initial phase that likely would include the installation of utilities and the first piece of roadwork.
The SEA has completed about 95 percent of the design for the utilities and roads, and hopes to bid the first phase of the work in June and start construction in July.
While the Sports & Exhibition Authority had requested $15 million from the state in redevelopment capital assistance to help fund the infrastructure, it is "extremely appreciative" of the $5 million, Ms. Conturo said.
The SEA is exploring possible federal sources, and other state sources, for funding. It also has been working with the city to develop a possible tax-increment financing district to help fund the improvements.
Under the 2007 agreement with state and local leaders to build Consol Energy Center, the Penguins hold the development rights to the land. Under the timetable set up in the deal, the hockey team must have the first development started by the summer of 2014.
The Penguins are proposing 1,200 units of housing, 600,000 square feet of office space and 200,000 square feet of commercial space on the property, which sits across the street from Consol Energy Center. After a contentious battle with preservationists, the Civic Arena was demolished to make way for the new development. The site is now being used for parking.
Team officials hired the Jones Lang LaSalle real estate firm to begin marketing the property to prospective developers and tenants last March but have yet to announce any deals.
Development most likely will start with housing, possibly as an extension of Crawford Square, which abuts the site.
The Penguins want to see the infrastructure work done before development starts, but there does not appear to be anything in the arena agreement that requires that.
Mark Belko: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1262.