The board of Pittsburgh Public Schools tonight approved tax abatement for the Lower Hill development in the vicinity of the former Civic Arena in what the school solicitor Ira Weiss called the "largest and most complicated project of this sort we've seen."
After extended discussion, the board agreed 7-2 to give the development a LERTA designation, which stands for Local Economic Tax Assistance Revitalization Act. The LERTA designation provides 10 years of tax abatement, project by project.
The two members opposed were Mark Brentley Sr. and Sherry Hazuda.
In lieu of taxes, as much as $40 million over about 24 years would be reinvested to develop other parts of the Hill District or pay for infrastructure in the development area.
The county and city already have approved the LERTA.
School board president Thomas Sumpter recalled the families displaced when the Civic Arena was built and questioned whether the plan would attract families that would increase the number of students in the district.
Noting the board wasn't invited to the groundbreaking, Mr. Sumpter said the board should no longer be taken for granted and called for all parties to work together.
Mr. Brentley did not get a second on his motion to hold the vote for 30 days. Mr. Brentley wants more community input and questioned the nature of the development. "It is not a family friendly development," he said.
He also said a vote against it would stand "in the way of millionaires and billionaires getting access to public dollars."
Board member Terry Kennedy said there will be a school board member on an advisory panel.
Board member Regina Holley said that most community groups favored the development.
Part of development includes a proposed five-story, 285,000-square foot building to be constructed across from Consol Energy Center as part of a $440 million redevelopment planned by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The five-story building would be the new U.S. Steel headquarters.
Also at tonight's meeting, the board approved a LERTA for AUDG Holdings Skyvue Development Project on the former Allegheny County Health Department site in Oakland between Fifth and Forbes avenue. The action on the commercial-residential development was tabled at a previous meeting to allow time for a change in board policy. The board policy had prevented the district from participating in a LERTA that did not include the county. The county's sales agreement excluded the county's participation. The vote was 8-1, with Mr. Brentley dissenting.
Education writer Eleanor Chute: email@example.com or 412-263-1955.