Lower Hill development to begin soon

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CHRIS KOCH

 

While those who attended the Community Input Meeting on developing the Lower Hill District site, formerly occupied by the Civic Arena, did enjoy a casual atmosphere and a dinner of wings, potatoes and green beans, they did not hear a lot of new details about how many buildings of what type would go where.
But the nearly 200 residents and stakeholders who attended the April 10 meeting at the Hill House Kaufmann Auditorium did hear one bit of news; that, if everything goes smoothly, infrastructure development could begin in as soon as six weeks.
This revelation came during Community Design Center Program Director Chris Koch’s presentation on the process of gaining multiple zoning approvals simultaneously for large development sites by creating a Special Development District. As she went through the process, she explained the first part requiring approval is a Preliminary Land Development Plan, which include details for infrastructure, development patterns, landscape design, and architectural details and is accompanied by updated zoning text.
Hill District city Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle told the New Pittsburgh Courier that plan would be submitted to the Department of City Planning within two weeks.
“I’ve been having weekly meetings with the Pittsburgh Penguins about this for some time,” said Lavelle. “We have a couple more to go then we’ll submit the plan. So, after that, if the process goes smoothly, we could begin site work in six weeks.”
That process would involve a minimum of three more community meetings before the zoning board, city planning and city council all sign off on the plan. The site work would also include an archeological study and digs to recover any historical artifacts if need be.
Furthermore, as both Lavelle and Hill Community Development Corp. Director Marimba Milliones reminded the audience, that initial site work offers opportunities for people to bid on contracts ranging from construction management to the guy who sells hot dogs on site.
“At every phase in these projects from before, during and after, we’re looking to maximize participation,” she said. “All of this is in keeping with the Hill Master Plan to connect the human side with the development side. We have a total of eight different designs stretching from the Upper Hill to the Lower Hill.”
Milliones also updated the community on nearly completed new housing on Dinwiddie and Reed Streets, and how housing plans call for residential expansion down Crawford Street to Fifth Avenue.
She also noted the ongoing construction of the SHOP ‘N SAVE underway on Centre Avenue and the upcoming groundbreaking for the first phase of the Addison Terrace public housing community redevelopment.
Hill Consensus Group co-convener Carl Redwood Jr. reminded the audience that now and into the near future, parking would generate practically all revenue on the 28-acre Lower Hill site, and that he is still campaigning to have $1 per car earmarked for Hill District development/community needs.
Other than parking taxes generated from the new spaces created following the demolition of the Civic Arena, that revenue goes to the Penguins.
Travis Williams, COO of the Penguins, and Clarence Curry from the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh also made a presentation about the infrastructure plans for the site. A second community meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., April 17 at the Thelma Lovette YMCA.
    (Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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