- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A black citizens group has settled a lawsuit against the city and its planning commission, and has agreed to an amended plan that will see U.S. Steel Corp. build its new headquarters on the site of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ former arena.

The settlement announced Tuesday by Mayor Bill Peduto and approved by an Allegheny County judge means the plans for a $440 million mixed-use development - anchored by the U.S. Steel headquarters - is going forward on schedule.

The Hill Community Development Corporation had appealed the planning commission’s approval of the development late last year and sued to prevent it.

Among other things, black leaders had expressed concern that new housing in the development wouldn’t be affordable and that black citizens wouldn’t have enough say in the development. As part of the settlement, a city-wide affordable housing task force will be created and an independent consultant will monitor the development’s Community Collaboration and Implementation Plan, which is supposed to ensure that benchmarks important to the black community are reached.

“We are committed to implementing a transformational development on the lower Hill District site that rebuilds the middle and upper Hill District,” Peduto said.

The Penguins didn’t exist when their former home, the Civic Arena, arena was built in 1961, but the team, which moved into the building as an expansion franchise in 1967, has borne the negative legacy of that development. Some 8,000 black residents were relocated to build the arena, which effectively cut off the rest of the predominantly black Hill District from the city’s downtown economic engine.

As a result, one of the nation’s most vibrant black shopping and cultural districts decayed, with the resulting blight inspiring the 1980s TV cops-and-robbers drama “Hill Street Blues.”

When the Penguins’ new arena, the Consol Energy Center, opened across the street in 2010, the Penguins had to agree to redevelop the old arena site and ensure that some of the socio-economic damage inflicted on the black community decade ago was taken into account.

The Penguins in November announced that U.S. Steel’s new world headquarters would anchor what had previously been described as a $440 million redevelopment plan that will include retail shops, housing and office space on the former arena site.

The development will be partially funded by more than $30 million in state grants and a local tax incentive program that will funnel some development revenue to infrastructure improvements, job training and other programs to benefit the Hill District. A fixed percentage of the new housing spawned by the development will be affordable, too.

Jonathan Kamin, an attorney for the Hill District group, said the settlement is good for all parties involved who “have a shared goal of revitalizing the Hill.”

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