Major Pittsburgh projects seek state funding
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Officials behind two major redevelopment projects Downtown are turning to the state for help in financing the ventures.
The city's Urban Redevelopment Authority is seeking $15 million in state assistance to help build a $238 million, 33-story skyscraper on Smithfield Street proposed by Oxford Development Co.
In addition, the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority is asking for $15 million to help jump-start development at the 28-acre former Civic Arena site.
They are among 30 projects in Allegheny County seeking more than $114 million in funding under the revamped state redevelopment assistance capital grant program.
Statewide, 175 projects with capital requests totaling $765 million are battling over a pot of money that is expected to top out at roughly $125 million a year, making competition fierce.
The URA is serving as a conduit for Oxford, which is expected to decide this fall whether to build the new skyscraper at the site of 441 Smithfield St., a seven-story office building that is now about three-quarters empty. The Oxford-owned structure would be demolished to make way for the high-rise.
The project hinges on the developer securing an anchor tenant. While Oxford has talked to various companies, including U.S. Steel, about the venture, it has yet to secure a commitment.
If it is unable to do so, Oxford will scrap the skyscraper plan and instead spend $40 million to renovate 441 Smithfield.
Oxford officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
SEA officials are looking for $15 million in state aid to help cover the cost of installing water, storm sewer and sanitary sewer lines throughout the arena site and to begin the construction of a street grid to reconnect the development to the Hill District.
The grant would give the SEA almost half of the estimated $40 million it needs to cover the cost of the utility and road work. Mary Conturo, SEA executive director, said it would be "very important" to the overall development.
If the SEA gets the money, water and sewer line work could begin in January and the street grid work in June, she said. Ms. Conturo would not speculate on the SEA's chances of getting the full amount. The SEA also has been working with the city to develop a possible tax increment financing district to help fund the infrastructure improvements.
Under the 2007 deal with state and local leaders to build the Consol Energy Center, the Penguins won the development rights to the 28 acres. Under the agreement's timetable, the Penguins must have the first development started in roughly two years. Although much has been made of the development timetable, the Penguins have said the more important issue is getting roads, utilities and other infrastructure in place to accommodate the plans.
Other local requests for state redevelopment capital assistance included:
• $15 million for a world trade center office, research and commercial development on 195 acres of land at Pittsburgh International Airport
• $6 million for the proposed conversion of the former Reizenstein school into Bakery Square 2.0, a $120 million-plus mixed use development, in the East End
• $8 million for developing new office, research, industrial and flex space at the former LTV coke works in Hazelwood
• $5 million for the Gardens at Market Square hotel, office and retail development on Forbes Avenue, Downtown
• $4.2 million for construction of a 60,000-square-foot Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC pediatrics ambulatory clinic in South Fayette
In revamping the redevelopment assistance capital program, Gov. Tom Corbett's office has said the focus will be on projects that have a "clear, positive economic impact for the state and local communities, with a priority on attracting and retaining jobs" and maximizing tax revenues.
The emphasis also will be on "shovel ready" projects set to begin construction within 365 days and those that will leverage maximize private investment. Awards are expected to be announced this fall.
First Published July 11, 2012 12:00 am