Votes next month would do more than determine if a music venue should be built in the Lower Hill District. If approved, developers believe plans could set the tone in the region for community investment through private-led development. 

The boards of the Urban Redevelopment Authority [URA] and the Sports & Exhibition Authority [SEA] have the final say on plans to build a Live Nation music venue on a section of the Hill District called Block E. 

Developers briefed the URA board in March and expected a vote in April, but the item never materialized on the board’s agenda. The agenda for May’s meeting has not been set yet, according to the URA.

The development, if approved, would involve tax breaks for the developers and millions of dollars in investments to a community that experienced redlining and disinvestment over the decades. But the Pittsburgh Penguins’ selected developer, Buccini/Pollin Group [BPG], warns that if the project isn’t approved soon, negative trending global markets may make a second attempt impossible. 

“The success of this has regional and national implications,” said Bomani Howze, vice president of development for BPG and a longtime Hill District figure. 

Bomani Howze, vice president of development for The Buccini/Pollin Group and CEO of OLMEC Development Company, talks with PublicSource on Thursday, April 6, 2023, at PPG Paints Arena in Downtown. (Photo by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)

Howze said that their investment partners are willing to invest in the project during a precarious moment. “[M]acroeconomics of the world following the Russia-Ukraine war, the shifting to the economics around Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — that has direct implications here. [The Federal Reserve] increasing interest rates. We have to take advantage of the window we have to increase investment in this region and not run the risk of scaring it away to other cities.”

But the Hill Community Development Corporation argues that the developers haven’t kept community investment promises the Penguins made as part of a 2014 Community Collaboration and Implementation Plan.

“We have concerns about all those things related to community commitments,” said Marimba Milliones, president and CEO of the Hill CDC, a registered community organization.

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