Lower Hill developers tout park plans, minority contracting to commission

The First National Bank headquarters under construction in the Lower Hill District in October 2022. (Photo by Rich Lord/PublicSource)

Drive for approval of concert venue comes amid continuing wrangling over extent of involvement of minority- and women-owned businesses on former Civic Arena site.

by Eric Jankiewicz and Rich Lord, PublicSource

The future of the Lower Hill District continued to be discussed in a briefing on Tuesday, held against the backdrop of lengthy discussions between a Pittsburgh Penguins-led development team and government agencies that control much of the land and process.

The Penguins-picked developer Buccini/Pollin Group [BPG], seeking approval for the construction on part of the former Civic Arena site, showed the City Planning Commission their plans to build a music venue and a small business incubator. That part of the Hill District has become controversial as several groups assert historic interest in the 28-acre site, for which the Penguins were granted development rights. 

Last month, the developers presented similar plans to the Urban Redevelopment Authority board and before that at a community meeting at which one Hill District community member described the developers as exploitative outsiders

“We remain optimistic about the opportunities we can bring to the Hill District,” Chris Buccini, president of BPG, told the commission. “There’s a lot of momentum here.” 

Tuesday’s meeting focused on two separate items: the planned urban park space, and the Live Nation music venue and accompanying structures proposed for the part of the site known as Block E. The commission did not vote to approve the projects as that will be done at a future meeting including public comment. 

Representatives of BPG described their project as innovative in two areas: urban park space and inclusion of women- and minority-owned businesses. 

“This a new paradigm for parks — more connected and seamless for mobility and accessibility to neighborhoods,” said Frederick Bonci, a founding partner of LaQuatra Bonci Associates, a Pittsburgh-based landscape architecture, urban design and planning firm.

“So instead of isolated parks, they’re fully connected and will serve neighborhoods in a much better fashion,” he continued.

Buccini said that the project, if approved, “will sustain reinvestment in Lower HIll District currently going on. This is a model of equitable development. This will build on the [Minority/Women-owned Business Enterprise] ambitious goals.”

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