Hospital on arena site to be razed in new year

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The march toward construction of the replacement for Mellon Arena gained more ground yesterday, with the award of an $868,000 contract to demolish the former St. Francis Central Hospital on Centre Avenue.

Homrich Inc. of Ann Arbor, Mich., the lowest responsible bidder, expects to begin the work in January after the Sports & Exhibition Authority board unanimously authorized the contract at its meeting.

Executive Director Mary Conturo said the demolition should be completed in May. The hospital property is part of the arena site, which runs from Centre to Fifth Avenue. It will serve as the location for part of the $290 million arena and a 500-space attached parking garage.

The arena construction is expected to start this spring.

Before the vote, George Moses, a representative for the Hill District Consensus Group, said some people still have concerns about the arena design and its impact on traffic and parking.

He said the team, which will oversee construction, has refused to meet on those topics since public input meetings held last summer. He urged the authority, which will own the arena, to "use whatever influence you have" to consider the concerns.

The Penguins now are going through the master plan process before the city planning commission, where many of the same issues are addressed.

Also yesterday, the board:

• Authorized a $335,443 reimbursement to the Pirates from a capital reserve account funded through a ticket surcharge to replace Home Plate Club seat cushions and field box seat bottoms at PNC Park. The work will be done in time for the 2008 season.

• Heard a plea from a representative of Autism Speaks to waive parking fees in public lots on the North Shore for the group's annual walk around Heinz Field. Last summer was the first time in the six or seven years the event has taken place that parking was charged. The 2007 walk raised $1.1 million. About 12,000 people took part.


Mark Belko can be reached at mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.


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