Residents of Hill get a say in plans for new arena
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Hill District residents and others will get a chance to help shape the master planning process for the new $290 million arena starting this evening during the first of a series of forums.
The city Planning Department, the city-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority, and the Penguins will kick off the process at 6 p.m. with a meeting at the Mellon Arena Igloo Club.
Tonight's session will be followed by focus group meetings this summer and another public meeting, all tied to the creation of a master plan for the arena, to be built behind Epiphany Church between Centre and Fifth avenues.
City Planning Director Noor Ismail said the process was put together in recognition of the demands by Hill religious and civic leaders and others who wanted a say in the project as well as any associated development that takes place once Mellon Arena is demolished.
Ms. Ismail said city planners sent out about 14,000 fliers to residents in the Hill and Uptown areas to inform them of this evening's meeting and the other opportunities to participate.
"We don't want people to come back and say we were not informed of the process," she said. "To be heard is to be there. It is not our plan. It is their plan."
The city Planning Department typically does not convene such an elaborate process as part of master plan approval, but did so in this instance because the arena is such an important regional facility and at the request of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who wanted to make sure there was adequate participation, Ms. Ismail said.
At this evening's meeting, there will be an update on the planning efforts for the arena, plus an opportunity for questions and answers and public comment.
Those who attend also will have a chance to sign up for one of six focus groups related to the arena planning -- residents; churches and social services organizations; community organizations and neighborhood groups; city and public agencies; business owners, developers, and major land owners; and sustainability, accessibility and historic preservation groups.
Those groups will receive updates of the proposed arena master plan and the results of a traffic study now being done and will be asked to comment on both.
The second public meeting, at a date to be determined, will provide summaries of the focus groups and allow for more public comment on the master plan.
"Because this is a facility of regional impact, the mayor is interested in the public participation process and given the requests of the neighbors, this is a natural way to progress," Ms. Ismail said.
This process will cover only the master plan for the arena itself. Subsequent master plans could be developed for the Mellon Arena site and the lower Hill District.
All master plans must be approved by the planning commission before any construction can begin.
For this evening's meeting, free parking will be available in the south lot of Mellon Arena across Centre Avenue from Epiphany Church. Those attending should enter the arena through Gate 3.
First Published June 3, 2007 10:49 pm