PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — While the Civic Arena is still not yet demolished, the city’s Planning Commission is considering a step in redeveloping the site.
Today, the Urban Redevelopment Authority asked the commission to declare the area blighted.
Once demolished, this 28-acre site will be a giant hole in the ground surrounded by parking lots.
The city’s URA has a better idea.
“Declaring it blighted is the first step, as the URA mentioned in the presentation, the first step to opening doors, financial doors, to a lot of different financial mechanisms that the city, the URA, the Sports & Exhibition Authority can use to redevelop the site,” says Trey Barbour, a consultant to the URA.
Once part of the Hill District, many nearby residents hope that streets like Wylie Avenue will be extended down into the area, but that requires new streets and infrastructure to be constructed.
If the Civic Arena area is declared blighted — or a redevelopment certification zone — then it becomes eligible for something call tax increment financing.
That means the city will be able to issue bonds in order to redo roads, and sewer lines, and utilities. The developer still pays taxes, but those tax dollars go to pay off the city bonds.
The Pittsburgh Penguins — subject to city approval — have the development rights and not everyone thinks the city should help finance this infrastructure.
But the URA says it will facilitate development.
“The site, currently with the way it’s laid out, is going to be difficult to redevelop,” says Barbour.
Which is why the city wants to use bonds to get development started.
“Finding the funding to do that and how it fits in with the neighborhood context and development scenarios — those are all future actions to be taken as the master planning process takes place,” adds Robert Rubinstein, the URA’s director of economic development.