The Corbett administration has committed $15 million -- $10 million more than originally thought -- for the construction of roads and utilities at the former 28-acre Civic Arena site, where work is expected to start this summer.
In a Feb. 20 acceptance letter to the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority, state budget secretary Charles B. Zogby said Gov. Tom Corbett had authorized the release of $15 million in redevelopment assistance capital grants for the work.
Mr. Zogby wrote that $5 million would be released now and that the rest would be awarded in future rounds. When the state announced the first round of awards last month, it listed $5 million for the SEA but did not mention the other $10 million the governor committed to providing.
SEA executive director Mary Conturo said the agency, which has been scrambling to raise the $40 million needed for infrastructure development at the site, "is extremely appreciative of the support from the governor's office." The SEA had requested $15 million for infrastructure development in the round of state redevelopment funding just awarded.
"In terms of planning for the big picture, we're another step closer," Ms. Conturo said.
With $5 million in hand, work on roads and utilities at the former arena site could begin in July as part of an office and residential development proposed by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Ms. Conturo said the money, accepted by the SEA board Thursday, would help to fund the first phase of the work, most likely some combination of roads and utilities.
She said the agency is still trying to figure out how to most efficiently use the money. The Sports & Exhibition Authority hopes to bid the first phase in June, with plans to start the work a month later.
Even with the commitment for $15 million, Ms. Conturo said the agency is still trying to identify other sources of funding for the improvements. Those could include federal or state transportation, commerce or environmental-related dollars. She said the new development would be a green neighborhood with sustainability features to prevent storm water runoff and provide energy efficient lighting.
The Penguins are proposing 1,200 units of housing, 600,000 square feet of office space and 200,000 square feet of commercial development at the site across the street from Consol Energy Center.
The team hopes to complete a master plan for the development by this summer. Part of the infrastructure work would include a new street grid for the lower Hill District, reconnecting the site with the rest of the neighborhood.
Travis Williams, the Penguins' chief operating officer, said the team has been talking regularly to developers and "potential end users" about the site. He said the Penguins are "probably leaning" toward a residential component to start the development, most likely near Crawford Square in the lower Hill.
"That's a logical first step in the development," he said.
Mr. Williams said the team should be in the position to begin development once enough infrastructure is in place to merit it.
"We feel very comfortable that we will have a developer and be ready to begin," he said.
Also Thursday, the SEA board voted to reimburse the Steelers $567,160 for structural steel painting and sealant and concrete repairs at Heinz Field. The money comes from a capital improvement fund financed through ticket surcharges.
The Pirates also were reimbursed $19,746 for costs related to new lighting at PNC Park. That money came from a separate improvement fund for PNC Park.
Mark Belko: email@example.com or 412-263-1262.