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Penguins agree to cap height of buildings |

Penguins agree to cap height of buildings

The Penguins plan to scale back the height of buildings that would be built on the former Civic Arena property in response to residents’ fears they would obscure views of the Downtown skyline and St. Benedict The Moor Church.

Team representatives told the Pittsburgh Planning Commission on Tuesday that they would cap the height on buildings in the northwest corner of the 28-acre Hill District property and on Centre Avenue leading to the church.

Buildings in the northwest corner closest to the U.S. Steel Tower would be a maximum of 700 feet. Original plans put no limit on height. The Steel Tower, by comparison, is 841 feet tall.

Buildings along Centre Avenue would be built at a maximum height of 50 feet if they abut sidewalks and a maximum of 120 feet if they’re back from the road so travelers have a view of St. Benedict. Original plans called for a 100-foot height limit on buildings abutting sidewalks.

“We’re going to continue to work with the community on the views to make sure the views are not being as impacted as they would suggest,” said Travis Williams, the Penguins chief operating officer.

He added that buildings wouldn’t necessarily reach maximum heights outlined in the plans.

Residents have complained that towering buildings would block views of Downtown, the landmark church and adjacent Freedom Corner, the site of historic civil rights activity in the 1960s and 1970s.

They say the changes are an improvement but not an ideal solution.

“It still is blocking the view and still creating a barrier,” said Wrenna Watson, a Hill District resident and former Planning Commission chairwoman.

Williams and development consultants briefed the commission on preliminary land development plans in anticipation of a public hearing in two weeks. The commission will consider the plans for approval after hearing public comment.

The Penguins have exclusive development rights to the property and are proposing a $400 million mix of apartments, offices, hotels, entertainment venues and green space.

The city-county Sports and Exhibition Authority, which owns the property along with the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority, has started improvements on sewage infrastructure on the site and is seeking bids to build streets.

Construction is scheduled to begin next year.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or [email protected].

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