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Pittsburgh Tribune Review


When Pittsburgh last hosted Columbus in the NHL playoffs, the city's Sports & Exhibition Authority was putting finishing touches on plans for streets, utilities and other infrastructure on the former Civic Arena site in anticipation of $500 million in development.

Pittsburgh also was preparing to send a delegation to Columbus to study how that city and its hockey franchise, the Blue Jackets, managed to attract $1 billion in development around Nationwide Arena "" transforming a blighted downtown area into a vibrant entertainment and commercial hub.

That was three years ago.

While some Pittsburgh-area officials said they hoped a Columbus-style transformation would be under way by now around PPG Paints Arena, progress has been slow. Infrastructure work on the former Civic Arena site continues. No buildings have sprung up, and developers have yet to announce plans to build.

"I would like to see the private-side development occurring faster, but remember when we came into office in 2014, there wasn't even an agreement with the community" on goals for the development, Mayor Bill Peduto said Tuesday.

The Penguins, which hold exclusive development rights to the site, declined to comment.

Mary Conturo, the SEA's executive director, said the infrastructure work has proceeded as planned.

"The roadways are the first big step in transforming that area," Conturo said.

The city already has spent $7 million to build four-lane Fullerton Street through the heart of the development site and to extend Wylie Ave­nue from Crawford Street to Fullerton.

Another $6.7 million is being spent to build four-lane Logan Street parallel to Fullerton and to extend Wylie from Fullerton to Logan. That work, which includes installing benches, streetlights, trees and plants along the new streets, is expected to be completed in August.

Later this year, work is expected to begin on a $26.4 million park over Interstate 579, also known as Crosstown Boulevard. The city wants to raise additional money to place amenities including an amphitheater and a pavilion in the park.

Peduto, who previously expressed frustration that the Penguins weren't moving more quickly, said he always anticipated that it would take at least 10 years to develop the 28-acre property.

Peduto noted that U.S. Steel committed to building its headquarters on the property, but the company pulled out after a financial downturn. Peduto said that office building would likely have been under construction now.

"I have no doubt with how strong the market is in Pittsburgh that (the development) will happen. But I am more concerned about it happening in the way that it has been promised," he said. "It's not a criticism. It's just that I would rather take the time and do it right than end up with something that didn't follow the agreement that we had signed with the community."

The Penguins and city, among other things, agreed that 20 percent of housing built on the property would be affordable to the poor.

They also agreed to provide business opportunities for minorities and women, honor the Hill District's cultural legacy through artistic design and create work opportunities for Hill residents.

"The conversations we've been part of (with the Penguins) have been positive," said Kevin Acklin, Peduto's chief of staff and the city's chief economic development officer. "There's clear indications by the Penguins that they're willing to meet all of the stipulations of the community agreement. They're looking to advance this development."

Bob Bauder and Tom Fontaine are Tribune-Review staff writers. Reach Bauder at 412-765-2312 or [email protected] and Fontaine at 412-320-7847 or [email protected]

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April 13, 2017


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