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Barden to honor $3 million pledge for Hill development

By Mark Belko and Rich Lord,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Monday, April 28, 2008

North Shore casino developer Don Barden will maintain his $3 million pledge to the Hill District after all.

After meeting today with Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Mr. Barden said the money would be spent over five years to “spur economic development” in the Hill above the Mellon Arena. He had originally pledged to commit the money within three years in the area near where a new hockey arena is being built.

Mr. Barden described his decision as a “happy medium.” He had petitioned the state gaming board to drop the commitment, saying it was contingent on getting development rights to the arena area. Those rights went to the Penguins.

Now Mr. Barden said he is planning to spend the money deeper into the Hill District.

Mr. Onorato and Mr. Ravenstahl praised Mr. Barden for continuing his commitment and said they would send a letter to the gaming board to support his bid to refinance the construction of the North Side casino.

Mr. Barden said the financial struggles of his casinos in Indiana, Colorado and Mississippi will have no bearing on the Pittsburgh project. He said they are entirely separate entities. Mr. Barden is seeking to refinance the casino project because costs have escalated.

He also dismissed concerns raised by Standard & Poor’s ratings service last week as technical in nature. He said Moody’s released a much more favorable number today.

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