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Meeting airs arena concerns

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Kevin Crowe
Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The displacement of families and businesses caused by the construction of the Civic Arena in the late-1950s was on the minds of some residents who attended a meeting Monday about the design and construction of the Penguins’ new arena.
Lois Cain, 69, grew up in the Hill District and lived there during the construction of what now is the Mellon Arena. She watched some of her neighbors and friends get forced out of the Hill. There were public input meetings at that time, she said, but the recommendations made by the community quickly were forgotten.

“I lived through this equation,” Cain told about 300 people who attended the meeting at the arena. “The Penguins have never been a friend of the Hill District.”

Cain’s comments underscored the feeling of distrust in many of the comments and questions fielded by the meeting’s hosts, representatives from the Penguins, the city Planning Department, the Sports & Exhibition Authority and Urban Design Associates, the development firm hired by the Penguins to help run the meetings, and members of organizations based in the Hill District.

The meeting was held to organize focus groups with the goal of getting input from the public about the construction and design of a $290 million arena Uptown, said host Don Carter, of Urban Design Associates.
It was the first step in a public participation process the arena project must follow to gain approval from the City Planning Commission.

In response to the comments questioning the process by which public input would be handled, City Councilwoman Tonya Payne said she wanted city planners to forward minutes from the focus group meetings to her office.

“If that information can get presented to my office, I’ll make sure it gets to the community,” she said, drawing applause.

Carter said that while he was happy so many people attended last night’s meeting, the time to discuss specifics of the new arena will be during the focus group meetings. They will be held as soon as a traffic study of the area surrounding the proposed arena is completed, and the times, dates and locations will be available on the city’s Web site, he said.

Carl Redwood, a spokesman for the One Hill Community Benefit Agreement, said the meetings should be about “more than just bricks and mortar.”

Redwood led about 50 people from Freedom Corner at Crawford Street and Centre Avenue to the arena for the meeting. They carried signs that read “One Hill,” and chanted “One Hill, One Voice.”

“We want to ensure that the community surrounding this development will see tangible benefits,” he said.

People who did not attend the kick-off meeting can sign up for the focus groups by contacting the Department of City Planning, the Hill District Consensus Group or the Hill Community Development Corp.

The six focus groups are: residents; churches and social organizations; community organizations; city and public agencies; business and land owners and developers; and historic preservation groups.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633