Agreement on arena benefits goes up in flames
Share with others:
Lifelong Hill District resident Brenda Tate held up a copy of a proposed community benefits agreement for the new Penguins arena and asked: "Anybody got a match?"
Her words summed up the feelings of neighborhood leaders assembled at the Hill House Association last night to formally reject the agreement offered by the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County for the development of the new arena.
After a news conference to announce they will oppose a Jan. 14 city planning commission vote on a master plan for replacing Mellon Arena, the group heeded Ms. Tate's suggestion. Someone put a lighter to the document and it went up in flames.
Among other complaints, leaders of the One Hill Community Benefits Agreement Coalition said their chief concern is that the proposed agreement is not binding and offers only "vague promises and general concepts."
The group said the city and county were offering an agreement with the Penguins that calls only for consideration of projects like a new grocery store and development of other community resources.
The group has asked for creation of a development fund that would be administered by directors selected by the city, county and community. The proposed agreement does not address that demand.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has said he doesn't think the community benefits agreement should include development funds, noting that other county and city agencies could provide money for revitalizing the Hill District.
One Hill leaders also are miffed that the proposed agreement was distributed through the news media and was not the result of a bargaining session with them.
"We're standing here collectively as a community to say that what was put on the table is unacceptable," said Evan Frazier, lead negotiator for One Hill.
"This isn't a community benefits agreement," said One Hill Chairman Carl Redwood. "This is a Penguins benefit agreement."
One Hill leaders have suggested that development money could come from the millions the Penguins stand to make from parking revenues. The group believes the neighborhood surrounding the new arena should benefit from public subsidies the project has received, something that didn't happen when Mellon Arena was built in the 1960s.
That is why a binding agreement promising community benefits is necessary, Mr. Frazier said.
"Good-faith efforts have not always worked for this community," Mr. Frazier said. "The Penguins have not had that history of reinvesting in the community."
One Hill plans to take news reporters on a tour of the neighborhood this morning to show areas that could benefit from development funds provided by profits from the new arena.
First Published January 8, 2008 12:00 am