Developer wants to use arena roof
This artist's rendering shows a proposed development in Ohio Township using pieces of the old Mellon Arena.
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If Mellon Arena is demolished, a North Hills developer has a plan to save at least part of it from the scrap heap.
Don Cella, president of Five Mile Development Group, wants to use the arena's main support truss and three-eighths of its distinctive silver dome in the construction of a proposed six-story office building at the firm's Stone Quarry Crossing development in Ohio Township.
The truss would be used to span a township road, and parts of the dome would serve as the roof for the building, which would be built into a hillside at the complex, located at Interstate 279 and Camp Horne Road.
"The unique stainless steel roof and massive wishbone support truss scream Pittsburgh," Mr. Cella said in announcing the plan.
He said he had talked to officials at the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority, which owns Mellon Arena and which would be responsible for its demolition, about the potential reuse.
"They were telling us the Penguins have the ultimate opinion [over whether the arena is razed or not]. Otherwise, they liked the idea, if we could reuse some of the arena without it being taken to a scrap yard," he said.
The truss, he said, is riveted and can be removed. The roof also is bolted together and can be taken apart. He is hoping to use the I-279 HOV lane to move the parts.
Mr. Cella said he originally considered erecting an office building with the arena truss and roof sections on the South Side near the Fort Pitt Bridge before abandoning the idea.
At the time, he estimated the cost to tear down and move the arena sections and to construct a base building without tenant improvements at $138 a square foot. He believes that the costs would be comparable at the Ohio Township location. That would be the cost of the 118,000-square-foot building he is proposing at $16.3 million.
He said he had yet to discuss with the SEA whether he would have to pay for the sections of the arena he wanted or whether some other arrangement could be worked out, such as getting the pieces for free if he paid to remove and relocate them.
SEA Executive Director Mary Conturo could not be reached for comment.
The proposal is contingent on the arena being demolished after the Consol Energy Center on the other side of Centre Avenue opens later this year. The Penguins want to see the building razed as part of their plan to redevelop the site and upper and lower parking lots, a total of 28 acres, into a mix of offices, residences and shops.
"Our preference is to see the arena demolished. However, we haven't yet gotten to the point where we're having serious discussions about development," Penguins President David Morehouse said.
At the same time, Downtown architect Rob Pfaffmann is seeking to save the arena from the wrecking ball, hoping to reuse the 48-year-old landmark as either a community ice rink or maybe a Penguins practice facility, surrounded by shops, restaurants, a hotel and small amphitheater.
"If the other plans don't work, we're the backup plan before it goes to the scrap yard," Mr. Cella said.
Mr. Morehouse said the team had not closed its mind to a possible reuse of the arena at its current location, but questioned the feasibility of such an attempt.
"We have yet to see a legitimate reuse of an arena or a stadium anywhere in the United States, and we don't expect to see one here," he said. "A lot of people can throw pie in the sky ideas out there on what to do with a piece of land. But unless there's financing behind it and it has a viable economic use, it's pie in the sky."
Mr. Cella, meanwhile, has experience reusing salvaged materials. A 45,000-square-foot glass and metal office building at Stone Quarry Crossing features a 180-foot glass-enclosed bridge salvaged from a former steel facility. Metal poles from old Pitt Stadium are used as decorative supports for the bridge and for parking lot lights.
He has yet to seek financing for the new six-story office building, saying he first must wait to see what the fate of the arena will be. If the arena ends up being demolished, he would like to complete the building, with its Igloo accents, in 2012.
First Published January 16, 2010 12:00 am