Just as the Pittsburgh Penguins prepare to kick off a new season, team ownership is kicking off an important phase of development around its home, the Consol Energy Center.
The first play in the team's long-term plan for the 28-acre tract that held the Civic Arena was a solid one, selecting as the lead residential developer the St. Louis-based firm McCormack Baron Salazar, a proven performer both across the country and at home.
McCormack Baron, which built more than 400 rental units and for-sale homes in Crawford Square in the Lower Hill District, will be responsible for 800 new housing units over the next decade. First up for transformation will be a plot of land bordering Crawford Square, where the team's plan calls for 200 to 300 rental apartments and townhouses aimed at young professionals, small families, graduate students and Downtown workers.
McCormack Baron won't be going it alone. The team will select a minority-owned company, which it said would build another 200 residential units on the site. It also said that at least 20 percent of the units would be affordable to lower-income people.
Those numbers are sticking points for some Hill District leaders, including Pittsburgh City Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle. The community wants the minority contractor to have a large share of the units. In addition, a master plan that neighborhood groups developed calls for 30 percent of the units to be affordable by low-income families. In addition, the groups want rent on at least half of the low-cost units to be low enough that families earning 30 percent of the average median household income can afford them.
The Penguins, who have their own master plan, say having that many low-cost units would throw off their financing plans.
This is just one more detail that the team and its neighbors will have to negotiate, and working out a compromise shouldn't be an unattainable goal. After all, even critics of the Penguins' plan agree that McCormack Baron is a strong developer, and that's the key component.
The parties have worked out other important details of their partnership, and now they must resolve their differences in order to revive a long-dormant part of the city.