Is there a development deal for the Lower Hill?

Daniel Lavelle

Last week, local state and federal government officials representing the Hill District met to hammer out a compromise deal that would move the stalled development of the 28-acre former Civic Arena site.
Convened by U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, the meeting also included Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto; Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald; state Sens. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, and Wayne Fontana, D- Brookline; state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District; and city Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle.
Once the proposal was put on paper, Peduto said, it would be presented to the Penguins. Until now, the sticking points in an agreement between the Hill District and the hockey team have been over the amount of subsidized housing units and the percentage of Black participation in development jobs.
At stake is $21 million in federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant funds to help pay for the estimated $30 million in roads, and gas, sewer and power line infrastructure the site will require before any buildings go up. Lavelle had threatened to withhold support for the grant application.
Lavelle did not return calls asking for an update and for details of the agreement. Calls to Penguins COO Travis Williams were also not returned.
Wheatley said he doesn’t want to say anything ahead of Lavelle and Peduto who are still finalizing the written proposal “based on what the community had on the table.”
“I think it’s a great step having all the elected officials together on this. We wanted to make sure everyone is on the same page and united ahead of the grant announcement,” he said. “I think what we put on the table is something everyone can live with. At the end of the day, it’s beneficial for everyone. The Penguins are part of this community too. So we need them to be successful if we’re going to be successful.”
Carl Redwood, convener of the Hill Consensus Group, said the community still wants 30 percent of the housing units to be subsidized, 20 percent of the labor and business opportunities for Blacks, he also wants the promised Curtain Wall art project completed, and one dollar of the parking fee for each car allocated for Hill redevelopment.
The Penguins previously said they could not go higher than 20 percent for the subsidized housing.
He did not say how close the compromise deal came, only that “politicians were trying to secure $21 million more for the owners of the Penguins’ corporations.”
Two previous applications for the TIGER grant funding have failed. The next round of funding will be announced in mid September.
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