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Harrah’s Station Square Casino unveiled

By Andrew Conte
Monday, January 23, 2006

The backers of Harrah’s Station Square Casino unveiled plans today for a $1 billion-plus development — including a slots parlor, a hotel expansion and 1,250 condominium units — on land east of the Fort Pitt Bridge. Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises would be the lead developer of the project and Las Vegas-based Harrah’s Entertainment would be the casino operator if the group wins the state license for Pittsburgh’s stand-alone slots parlor.

The group would set up a $25 million endowment for the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, which started the rebirth of Station Square, in the South Side. Forest City also would set aside $1 million a year for local community groups.

“This is a massive development plan,” said Brian Ratner, a Forest City director who attended the morning news conference. “We’re going to create, if you will, a new neighborhood for Pittsburgh.”

The proposal does not include any money for a new arena. Ratner said the company would “be happy to talk with” Mayor Bob O’Connor and Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato about the arena project once they develop a financing plan.

Forest City brought in five local partners with a 25 percent stake: Bill Lieberman, an insurance broker; Charles Zappala, a financial advisor; Glenn Mahone, a lawyer at Reed Smith; Yvonne Cook, a Highmark vice president; and Franco Harris, the Steelers Hall of Fame running back.

Each of the partners bought into the project, Ratner said.

The casino — highlighted by a four-season winter garden, complete with palm trees — would be on land west of the Sheraton Station Square Hotel. It would feature exterior terraces with views of Downtown. The casino would take 16 to 18 months to build.

A proposed condominium neighborhood would sit at the other end of the Station Square complex, and include buildings of varying heights with retail shops on the first level. The condo project would take three to eight years to develop.

Forest City also would expand the Sheraton by adding 200 rooms. The project includes plans for a separate hotel that would have 300 to 500 rooms.

Harrah’s Station Square Casino is competing with three other bidders for the city’s lone slots parlor license. The license itself will cost $50 million.

The other bidders are Isle of Capri Casinos, based in Biloxi, Miss., which has partnered with the Penguins on plans for a new arena; Detroit casino operator Don Barden, who wants to build a casino on North Shore property; and Alco Parking owner Merrill Stabile, who has partnered with three former executives of Mandalay Resort Group for a casino at North Shore site across from PNC Park.

Andrew Conte can be reached at or (412) 765-2312.

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review © Pittsburgh Tribune Review

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