Hill ministers seek separate meeting on side investments
August 29, 2007 3:30 AM
Looking east along Centre Avenue.
Looking east along Fifth Ave.
The view of Downtown from the arena's interior.
Looking north along Washington Place.
By Ann Belser and Mark Belko Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Penguins last night unveiled preliminary design drawings for the new arena to be built between Centre and Fifth avenues, Uptown, to replace Mellon Arena.
The drawings were shown at a public meeting attended by about 150 people, including Hill District residents and others interested in the design.
The new building, which is being designed by HOK Sport of Kansas City, Mo., will have its main entrance on Centre Avenue near Washington Place, with other entrances on the east side of the building off Centre Avenue and at Fifth Avenue and Washington Place.
Patrick Lempka, lead architect for the project, said the building will be 80 feet tall along Centre Avenue and about 130 feet high at Fifth Avenue.
People on Fifth Avenue won't necessarily see the arena looming above them because the facade along Fifth Avenue will be brick and cast stone storefronts that will be about 55 feet high, with the arena set back on a plaza from the top of that base.
The new building will have a corridor around the main level that will run from Centre Avenue to the plaza behind the Fifth Avenue facade. That circular corridor will be faced with glass while the top of the arena will have some sort of metal or painted metal skin, Mr. Lempka said.
Mr. Lempka said the architects are working with the city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority to incorporate features that would make it a green building.
In a related development, nine Hill District ministers want to meet with public officials and the Penguins to discuss neighborhood reinvestment that will result from the new arena, including a proposal for $10 million in development funding, even as a separate group gets ready to negotiate its own agreement for residents.
The ministers sent an e-mail to Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, the Penguins and the Sports & Exhibition Authority last week seeking to "reconvene conversations regarding the Hill District community in relation to the lower Hill District site and the new arena."
"As faith leaders, we are clear about what must happen in order to ensure that the Hill District has holistic representation that protects the residents of this community and their interests," the e-mail said. "At this time, we have resolved that our collective leadership is required in order to bring sobering clarity and progress to this complex matter."
They said the discussion would be a follow-up to meetings held in April. Then, they and some Hill business leaders presented a term sheet to Mr. Ravenstahl and Mr. Onorato that included requests for the $10 million in upfront development funding, plus an unspecified annual contribution for 30 years, to be directed to the "greater Hill District community's development interest"; at least 30 percent of arena jobs for "minorities of color"; and a percentage of revenues from the new arena and future redevelopment of the Mellon Arena site for Hill reinvestment.
Their e-mail arrived as a separate group, the One Hill Community Benefits Agreement Coalition, announced that it had formed a nine-member negotiating team to start discussions with city and county leaders and the Penguins on a community benefits agreement for the neighborhood.
The coalition team was scheduled to sit down with Mr. Onorato, Mr. Ravenstahl and the Penguins yesterday for an introductory meeting.
Carl Redwood, the One Hill chairman and spokesman, said the coalition represented more than 100 Hill District groups. He said more than 1,000 Hill residents participated in numerous meetings over five months to determine what benefits it wanted in negotiations with the city, county and Penguins.
Mr. Redwood said yesterday he did not know why the ministers, some of whom he described as members of the One Hill coalition, are seeking their own meeting with government leaders and the team.
"They don't represent the Hill and to claim otherwise is divisive," he said.
City Councilwoman Tonya Payne, who represents the Hill District, said the One Hill coalition was created so there "would be one voice that represented the entire Hill District." She said it was wrong for the ministers to be seeking their own meeting.
"The community has voted on who they wanted to negotiate a community benefits agreement. They selected negotiators. I think it's terribly unfair that [the ministers] would be that presumptuous that they would come out and say they would be better negotiators than the ones chosen by the community," she said.
In an interview Friday, the Rev. Glenn Grayson, senior pastor of Wesley Center African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and one of the nine ministers seeking a meeting, said the group was "just continuing our dialogue" with local politicians and the Penguins.
He noted a community benefits agreement was just one of the nine requests ministers and other Hill representatives made of the Penguins and the city and county during the initial meetings in April.
"We set up another date to meet with public officials to get an update on our request for the total community," he said.
Mr. Redwood has said that among the benefits the One Hill coalition is seeking as a result of the community meetings are the first shot at jobs created by the arena and support for community programming, including help in landing a grocery store which residents have coveted for years.
The list does not, however, include the $10 million in development funding. Mr. Redwood has said that was not one of the benefits "the community came up with" during meetings.