Citing language that would have prevented community groups from objecting to the Pittsburgh Penguins development plans for the former Civic Arena site in the Lower Hill District, several URA board members nearly killed the amended agreement the city had forged with the team to get development moving.
But instead, during a special Nov. 15 meeting, they approved amendments to the new deal—including one to eliminate that language—that the team must agree to. Otherwise, the deal is dead.
“This thing about community groups not having a voice in development in their community is unacceptable,” said board member and state Rep. Ed Gainey. It’s undemocratic and unpatriotic.”
Board member Cheryl Hall-Russell said the concessions board chair Kevin Acklin helped win from the Penguins—the biggest being forgoing $15 million in tax credits—amount to “putting lipstick on a pig” because the original deal was so one-sidedly beneficial to the team.
“And this whole community groups thing has to go,” she said. “I can’t vote for this the way it is.”
City Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle said much the same, and thanked Acklin for doing a great job to improve the original “horrific deal.”
“These amendments are good, but I don’t think they go far enough in terms of penalizing the Penguins for failing to hit development deadlines,” he said. “And I find this ‘community groups’ language disturbing, so I’m not going to vote on this today.”