Work on Civic Arena site to begin in August |

Work on Civic Arena site to begin in August

Tom Fontaine

Construction of streets at the former Civic Arena site, now a sprawling parking lot in the heart of Pittsburgh, will begin in August, officials said on Thursday.

It will be the first significant activity on the 28-acre site since crews completed demolition of the arena about two years ago. More than $500 million in redevelopment is planned.

“We’re almost ready to start construction of the urban street grid,” said Mary Conturo, executive director of the city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority.

The first phase is expected to cost $9 million and focus on building interior streets on the eastern part of the site, Conturo said. The work is expected to take about a year.

SEA is finalizing designs and could seek bids from contractors as early as June, Conturo said.

Altogether, SEA plans to spend $30 million doing infrastructure work to prepare the site for development. About $27 million would be spent on an urban park over Interstate 579 that officials said would improve pedestrian connections between Downtown and the Hill District.

Preliminary design work on the urban park will begin late this spring and could take nine months, said Tom Ryser, an SEA project manager. It is expected to cost about $1.1 million. The federal government will pay 80 percent, and SEA will cover the rest, Ryser said.

Final designs of the proposed park between Bigelow Boulevard, Centre Avenue, Chatham Square and Washington Place would be done next year. No money has been secured for construction.

“We’re taking it one step at a time,” Conturo said.

The infrastructure work will clear the way for residential and commercial development, which remains uncertain.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, which has exclusive development rights to the site, intended to submit preliminary land development plans for the first phase of residential construction late last year. The team delayed those plans because of criticism from some Hill District community leaders who thought the project didn’t include enough low-income housing.

Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan offered no update, saying only: “We’re continuing to have discussions privately with all the parties involved.”

Under the deal, the Penguins are required to develop at least 10 percent of the site annually for 10 years and close on the first phase by October.

Tom Fontaine is a Trib Total Media staff writer.

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