Council won't stop Civic Arena demolition
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City Council won't step in to stop the demolition of the Civic Arena.
After lengthy debate, council voted 6-3 today to reject a city historic designation for the 49-year-old landmark, all but sealing its fate.
Its decision allows the city-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority, the arena's owner, to move forward with plans to demolish the structure with the retractable dome.
The SEA wants to clear the site to make way for a 28-acre residential, commercial, and office development proposed by the Penguins. The team won development rights over the land in the 2007 deal to build the new Consol Energy Center across the street from the arena.
Today's decision is a defeat for local preservationists, led by architect Rob Pfaffmann, to protect the Igloo from the wrecking ball. They still may file a lawsuit in an effort to block the demolition.
Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, who voted for the designation, said she worried about potential public subsidies that would go into the Penguins project, including $5 million in demolition costs.
"My concern is about the massive amounts of public subsidies going into the project when we can't maintain the streets we have," she said.
She also questioned whether the plan proposed by the Penguins would be viable.
However, Councilman Bruce Kraus voted against the designation based on the potential for restoring the street grid from the Hill to Downtown and eventually connecting Oakland to Downtown.
"I am taking a gamble here," he said, noting he originally supported the historic designation.
Councilman Ricky Burgess said he deferred to the people of the Hill District, many of whom wanted to see the arena demolished. While the building served its purpose, "its time and usefulness is now gone," he said.
Before the vote, activist Gary English urged council to put the issue on the ballot for a referendum vote, but that got no support.
Carl Redwood of the Hill Consensus Group also made a pitch for dedicating $1 a car from the parking revenues of the arena's lots toward a Hill District improvement fund.
Voting against the designation were Mr. Kraus, Council President Darlene Harris, and council members R. Daniel Lavelle, Theresa Kail-Smith, Patrick Dowd and Mr. Burgess.
In favor were Ms. Rudiak, William Peduto and Doug Shields.
First Published June 28, 2011 1:48 pm