PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Penguins are pushing pause on the development of the former Civic Arena site in the Hill District. The Pens said the decision comes after the Urban Redevelopment Authority did not take a vote to move forward with plans for a new headquarters for First National Bank.
“We are committed to do everything we can to move this project forward,” said URA Board Chair Sam Williamson.
Williamson said the problem is the timeline.
“We simply didn’t have enough time in advance of yesterday’s board meeting to review documents that the development team had provided to us. In many cases mere hours before the board meeting started,” said Williamson.
Thursday night, the URA voted unanimously to delay a vote on preliminary plans for the First National Bank headquarters.
“We’ve got a historic responsibility to get it right. We are talking about a community where there’s been historic levels of disenfranchisement and disinvestment,” said Williamson.
Williamson said the URA wants to take its time before the next steps, and to make sure the public is given the opportunity to provide feedback before that vote happens.
Penguins CEO David Morehouse said:
“In a week where the Penguins had to furlough a majority of our employees and we are all suffering the worst health and economic crisis in our nation’s history, we are disappointed that the URA delayed a $200 million development project that alone would create 1,500 construction jobs, 2,000 permanent jobs, deliver the highest commitments to minority and women-owned businesses in the city’s history, and generate $11 million in direct and immediate investment into the middle and upper Hill District. Our primary anchor tenant pledged to grow thousands of new jobs in Pittsburgh and has justified expectations that this development will be delivered on time, in accordance with our Option Agreement. With constantly changing demands and delays, it makes delivery increasingly impossible. At this point, given the current economic conditions and the apparent lack of support from the URA, we are ceasing our development operations on the Lower Hill.”
“There’s never been a lack of support for this project or this development from the URA. What we have consistently done and frankly what we will continue to do is to balance their goals with the needs and demands of community members because that’s our job,” said Williamson.
Williamson said the URA will likely take the vote late next week.
Where does that leave things with the Pens and the development? The Pens said they are not commenting beyond the statement they made Thursday.
Mayor Bill Peduto released this statement:
“The City of Pittsburgh remains fully committed to delivering a transformative development to the Lower Hill District in partnership with the Pittsburgh Penguins and BPG. Over the past several months, we have successfully worked together on numerous positive votes without delay to take down parcels, advance affordable housing, and move forward with a new corporate HQ skyscraper. This development partnership will also bring over $10 million in funding to the greater Hill District Community, new rec2tech facilities, and an MWBE small business incubator, union jobs, and local hiring programs. The City and URA are working closely to advance a vote in the coming days that will build off that partnership and take the next step forward in seeing this vision come to reality.”