Civic Arena site parking tax proposed for Hill District

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With the demolition of the Civic Arena nearing completion, Pittsburgh Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle has introduced legislation that would direct all new taxes generated from parking on the site to development in the Hill District.

“There will be about 800 new interim spaces on the site and we want the tax revenue from those earmarked for development in the Hill District,” he said. “My bill calls for splitting the revenue evenly between the (Urban Redevelopment Authority) and the (Sports and Exhibition Authority) to develop the site and develop the Hill.”

DanielLavelle
R. DANIEL LAVELLE

Lavelle’s legislation, introduced April 3, calls for a cooperation agreement between the city, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Sports and Exhibition Authority that would allocated 50 percent of the temporary space parking tax to the SEA for infrastructure improvements to the 28-acre arena site. The other 50 percent would go to a Community Development Investment Fund at the URA and used solely for Hill District development projects.

Currently, the SEA has neither the estimated $40 million needed to add infrastructure to the site—most of which it owns, nor does it have the funds to pay recently hired engineering firm Michael Baker Jr. Inc. of Moon for its final infrastructure designs.

“The idea is to get as much benefit for the residents of the Hill District as possible from this project,” said Lavelle. “The site is going to be a parking lot until it’s developed. Giving half of the new tax revenue to the SEA could speed that up and in the mean time, the other half can be put to use on other projects that can benefit the Hill with jobs and economic development.”

Last month the Pittsburgh Penguins hired Jones Lang LaSalle, one of the largest global real estate firms in the world to market the 28-acre site to developers.

The firm will review proposals and will help determine whether a single developer or several would be best. The firm will also maintain communications with and among stakeholders in the Hill, Uptown and Downtown.

So far the only “design” is little changed from the general one proposed by the Penguins almost 10 years ago. Basically, it calls for 1,200 units of housing, 600,000 square feet of office space and 200,000 square feet of commercial space. However, those numbers could change with downtown living and office space now at a premium.

“This is a rare opportunity for a city of this size to have 28 acres of developable land adjacent to its central business district,” said Penguins CEO David Morehouse. “It’s happening in Pittsburgh at a time when the economy is moving forward. So it’s a perfect storm of opportunity if done in the right way. We’re committed to doing our part to make sure that it happens.”

Carl Redwood, chair of the Hill Consensus Group, said he supports Lavelle’s efforts.

“Definitely, we support the legislation for making sure there’s a direct community benefit to the Hill District,” he said. “But the bigger question is what about the 65 percent of that revenue that goes to the Penguins when they aren’t paying for any of this site preparation. There is a zoning hearing on the new surface parking scheduled for April 19 and we’ll be there raising that issues again.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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