Former Civic Arena site talks termed 'very positive'

In early September, the Penguins and city Councilman Bill Peduto appeared ready to drop the gloves at center ice over the hockey team's plans to redevelop the former Civic Arena site.

Now it sounds like they're ready to join lines.

Mr. Peduto said the two sides are working on an agreement that would limit the amount of public money that goes into the 28-acre site; use part of whatever public funding is secured to make improvements beyond the property itself; and expand the number of stakeholders involved in discussions on the redevelopment. "We have an agreement to work together on all three goals, and meetings are happening on a weekly basis," he said. "I would say there's a lot of positive energy."

Travis Williams, the Penguins' chief operating officer, agreed the discussions have produced "very positive momentum." "The meetings have been very positive, and we concur that we've been able to reach resolution on how to approach the project and the goals and objectives on those three points," he said.

Mr. Peduto, the Democratic nominee for mayor and prohibitive favorite in next month's election, said last month that if the Penguins received an $18 million federal grant to help redevelop the lower Hill District site, he did not want them coming back to the city for more public funding, but at the same time, he left the door open for other options to be explored if the team did not get the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant.

The Penguins did not get the federal money, and Mr. Peduto said he and the team are now working through that issue with the goal of limiting the amount of public money used for the development. In addition, he said the Penguins are in agreement with using a portion of whatever public funding is received for the 28 acres to make improvements to other parts of the lower Hill District or to parts of Uptown. Mr. Peduto has specifically mentioned Crawford and Pride streets and parts of Fifth Avenue.

The team has said the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant would have paid for improvements to Crawford Street, Bedford and Centre avenues and Washington Place. One sticking point could be Fifth Avenue across from the Consol Energy Center. Mr. Peduto would like the Penguins to pay for streetscape improvements along that stretch, but the team has been resisting.

Mr. Williams said the two sides have yet to discuss specific levels of public support or exactly how improvements would extend beyond the 28 acres. Instead, they have talked "very broadly about the goals and objectives" from their different points of view. "We've reached a resolution as to how we're going to approach those moving forward."

The proposed arena redevelopment is expected to include nearly 1,200 residential units, 691,962 square feet of office space, and 200,101 square feet of retail space. There's also talk of a 150-room hotel and a 2,310-seat cineplex. Last month, the Penguins hired St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Salazar, the company that did the Crawford Square housing development in the lower Hill adjacent to the arena site, as the lead residential developer.

Team officials also have been holding meetings in the neighborhood and talking to stakeholders about the project. Mr. Peduto said the Penguins have agreed to expand the number of people involved in those discussions.

By Mark Belko Pittsburgh Post Gazette