Ravenstahl: Mellon Arena must come down for redevelopment

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Mayor Luke Ravenstahl won't stand in the way of Mellon Arena being demolished when it closes later this year.

Mr. Ravenstahl said this morning he believes the arena must come down as part of efforts to reconnect the Hill District to Downtown and to redevelop the 28 acres sitting between the two sites.

His comments are a blow to efforts by some groups to preserve and reuse the arena as part of redevelopment efforts.

While mindful of a process now under way to look at alternatives to demolition, the mayor said he's not sure any "make sense and are sustainable."

"I believe that there is a better and higher reuse of that land than perhaps preserving that building. Now that may make some folks unhappy but I also think it's the right thing to do for the future of this city," he said.

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Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and city Councilman Daniel Lavelle also said they favored the demolition of the arena.

"My personal opinion is that Mellon Arena must come down," Mr. Lavelle said, adding many in the Hill share that sentiment.

Local architect Rob Pfaffmann, who is pushing a plan to preserve the arena, said there are ways to keep the Igloo while restoring the street grid to the neighborhood. He said that may make more economic sense than demolishing the arena.

They made their comments during a visit by U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Philadelphia, to the Connelley trade school, which overlooks Mellon Arena.

Mr. Specter threw his support behind plans to restore the street grid between the Hill and Downtown, saying it would create thousands of construction and permanent jobs.

He said he was "reasonably optimistic" that local officials would be able to secure the $28 million in federal funds they are seeking for the project. He said he would lobby on their behalf during the appropriations process just starting.

Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262. First Published April 12, 2010 3:00 PM


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