Civic Arena advocates continue fight, file lawsuit
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The group Preservation Pittsburgh took its effort to save the Civic Arena to federal court Wednesday, suing the Sports & Exhibition Authority, the owner of the arena, along with numerous city, county and federal agencies.
The complaint said arena demolition would violate the National Historic Preservation Act by using highway funds to redevelop the site of the 50-year-old arena. It asks for a declaratory order that city actions to approve demolition are "unlawful and invalid," and to bar the use of federal funds to rebuild streets around the 28-acre arena site.
City Council, in a 6-3 vote on June 28, rejected a historic designation that could have saved the 49-year-old landmark from demolition. The decision cleared the way for the Sports & Exhibition Authority to move ahead with plans to tear down the structure.
Also named as defendants were the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and two Federal Highway Administration officials.
The lawsuit said that in 2001, the arena was found by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The Penguins and SEA, however, want to demolish the arena and redevelop the site.
The city's proposed five-street grid project, called the Lower Hill Street Revision Project, would connect the Lower Hill neighborhood to the central business district and seeks a $974,000 Congressional earmark, which has not been approved, the complaint said.
Plans for the Lower Hill Street Revision Project depend on funds from the Federal Highway Administration, according to the complaint.
The Federal Highway Administration, according to the complaint, hasn't fulfilled its legal mandate to minimize harm to historic structures. It hasn't done required reviews of the environmental impact of any redevelopment of the site, the complaint continued.
The complaint said the city's decision to proceed with the demolition is "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and is otherwise not in accordance with the law," given the allegations of National Historic Preservation Act violations.
Preservation Pittsburgh seeks an order that would temporarily block demolition of the Civic Arena until federal agencies perform their reviews required under National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. The organization also seeks an injunction preventing the city and SEA from proceeding with plans for street improvements in the Lower Hill.
SEA Executive Director Mary Conturo said she had not seen the complain and declined to comment.
A spokesperson for the Mayor's Office declined to comment. Preservation Pittsburgh officials could not be reached.
First Published July 7, 2011 12:00 am