Penguins suitor, community group raise questions about Hill redevelopment

On the western edge of the 28-acre former Civic Arena site in Pittsburgh’s Lower Hill District, earth movers have begun to prepare the site of First National Bank’s coming headquarters tower. (Photo by Kaycee Orwig/PublicSource)

 

Could a Boston billionaire change the Lower Hill’s future? Would a new community group amplify or muffle the Hill’s voice? Answers are emerging.

 

by Rich Lord, PublicSource

Just as earth-moving equipment starts to reshape the former Civic Arena site, the entire development landscape of the Hill District threatens to shift this month.

News broke this week that Boston-based Fenway Sports Group [FSG] was negotiating to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins, potentially putting the Lower Hill’s redevelopment in the hands of a billionaire whose ownership of the Boston Red Sox coincides with ballpark-area gentrification. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that both sides have approved the pending purchase.

Less publicly, a potential rival to the Hill Community Development Corp. awaits word on whether it will become the neighborhood’s second registered community organization. Such a designation could alter the public processes governing an anticipated billion-plus dollars of Lower Hill construction plans.

Here are the questions we asked, and the answers we got, in a week of uncertainty for the Hill.

Would a sale of the Penguins alter the club’s commitments to redevelop the arena site?

 

The hockey franchise received the development rights to the 28-acre site as part of the complex deal that led to the construction of the 11-year-old PPG Paints Arena. In 2014, the team’s development arm, Pittsburgh Arena Real Estate Redevelopment LLC, signed a Community Collaboration and Implementation Plan [CCIP], which outlines the community benefits that should flow from the development to the rest of the Hill.

The Penguins have turned over most development duties to Delaware-based Buccini/Pollin Group [BPG]. Site preparation recently began on the western edge, where First National Bank’s new headquarters tower is set to rise on 2.5 acres.

“A change in ownership, if any occurs, would not in any way affect the Penguins’ commitment to the Lower Hill redevelopment effort,” wrote Kevin Acklin, chief operating officer and general counsel for the Penguins, in a response on Thursday to PublicSource’s questions.

Leaders of the Hill CDC, which held a meeting Thursday night, said they were still gathering information on the potential impact of a sale.

“We feel pretty good about most of it but just understand we are learning with you at the same time,” Hill CDC President Marimba Milliones told around 45 attendees at the virtual meeting.

 

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