Pittsburgh’s URA approves new deal with Penguins for Civic Arena site development |

Pittsburgh’s URA approves new deal with Penguins for Civic Arena site development

Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
The former site of the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh's Lower Hill District is seen from the 20th floor of the Marriott City Center.

Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority approved a deal for the Penguins to proceed with development of the former Civic Arena property, but the agreement hinges on several new conditions sought Wednesday by the authority.

The URA’s board of directors approved the agreement on a 3-2 vote, contingent upon Executive Director Robert Rubinstein getting the team to sign off on the conditions.

“We’re glad the URA board approved the amendment to the option agreement,” said Travis Williams, the Penguins’ chief operating officer. “We are excited to turn the page on the discussion on the amendment and start moving forward on development.”

Williams said he expects work to begin in late 2018. Demolition work on the Civic Arena wrapped up in late March 2012.

The city-county Sports and Exhibition Authority approved the agreement last week. It shares ownership of the 28-acre property in the Lower Hill District.

Under terms previously disclosed, the Penguins must develop 10.75 acres by 2023 or face losing 30 percent of the parking revenue from lots that cover most of the 28-acre property. Among the new conditions sought by the URA, the team would lose 40 percent of parking revenue for missing the deadline.

URA board members also want to remove a clause from the agreement that permits the team to miss the 2023 deadline without penalty if Hill District-based community groups protest and cause a development delay.

Williams said he has agreed in principal to both conditions.

A final condition would require the city to divert 10 percent of parking revenue on a proposed parking garage to a fund for other development in the Hill District.

The agreement eliminates a $15 million credit available for the Penguins to purchase the 28 acres. The Penguins will get the parcels for free. Pittsburgh would have been required to pay the team cash for any credits left over from the property sales.

Board members Jim Ferlo of Highland Park and R. Daniel Lavelle of the Hill District, who also serves on Pittsburgh City Council, voted against the deal.

Both expressed frustration that the Penguins have owned exclusive development rights to the property since 2007 but have yet to break ground on any new buildings.

They also said penalties for missing development deadlines should be higher.

“For me, personally, we’re not going far enough,” Lavelle said. “I still have concerns that there’s not necessarily enough penalty baked into the Penguins.”

Lavelle said the Penguins should lose all parking revenue if the team fails to hit the deadlines.

Ferlo suggested that the URA pay the Penguins $15 million for the property. He said the URA could then develop the 28 acres.

“I don’t think the Penguins are capable of developing this site,” he said.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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