Civic Arena dismantling advances despite lawsuit
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A federal lawsuit hasn't stopped the city-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority from pressing forward with plans to demolish the Civic Arena.
The SEA has applied with the city Bureau of Building Inspection for a permit to knock down the old building, prompting Preservation Pittsburgh, one of the groups trying to save the Igloo, to go to court Tuesday to thwart the move.
Preservation Pittsburgh, which filed a lawsuit July 6 to stop the demolition, is seeking a temporary restraining order in U.S. District Court to prevent the SEA from starting the work if a demolition permit is authorized.
The group said the permit could be issued within 15 days. The restraining order, its motion stated, "is needed to preserve the status quo and prevent the historic Civic Arena from being irreparably destroyed before this court has an opportunity to decide" the merits of the lawsuit.
While Scott Leib, president of Preservation Pittsburgh, noted that it was unlikely the SEA would begin work the day the permit is issued, "legally they would be able to start the demolition at that time, which is why we requested the temporary restraining order today."
Mary Conturo, SEA executive director, said the agency would ask U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone to reject the bid for the temporary restraining order. It is also seeking to have the lawsuit, and a request for a preliminary injunction filed as part of it, thrown out as well.
"We do not believe the motion for a preliminary injunction has merit," Ms. Conturo said.
The SEA has already awarded a $2.9 million contract to Noralco Corp. of Penn Hills to demolish the arena, which turns 50 years old next month. The same company brought down Forbes Field, the Jenkins Arcade and the Kaufmann's warehouse on the North Shore.
Demolition would start with asbestos remediation inside the structure. The entire project -- more a dismantling than an implosion -- is expected to take nine or 10 months.
The SEA wants to clear the site to make way for a residential, commercial and office complex being proposed by the Penguins, who won the development rights over the land in the 2007 deal to build Consol Energy Center and keep the team in Pittsburgh.
In its lawsuit, Preservation Pittsburgh claims that the proposed redevelopment of the 28-acre site with federal highway funds would violate the National Historic Preservation Act. It wants the demolition to be declared illegal.
"The basis of our lawsuit is that the Sports and Exhibition Authority will be evading federal preservation law by demolishing the Civic Arena before federal funds are secured for site redevelopment," Mr. Leib said. "Our lawsuit is aimed to protect Pittsburgh's access to more than $30 million of federal funds."
First Published August 3, 2011 12:00 am