In 1961 the Hill District was cut off from downtown with the building of the Civic Area, and with the demolition of the arena developers have been drawing up plans to hopefully reconnect the two.
The city has been granted $1.5 million to hire engineers to start drawing up plans to being bidding for the construction of a cap that will be installed over 579 between downtown and the old Civic Area.
“That area right there will basically now look like a bit of a tunnel, because there will be a roof over it, and on top of that roof or cap, will be grass, will be a park. And people can literally walk over 579,” said U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle (D-Allegheny).
Area lawmakers had been hoping for a much larger pot of federal money. Along with the request for a planning grant, a request for a $20 million capital grant was also submitted.
The grant was awarded just after the city announced the plans to redevelop the 28 acres where the arena was that the cap is a small part of, but Doyle says it will be at least a year before anyone sees the housing units and businesses that will take up much of that land.
“But when it’s done, you’re going to have many more businesses in that area creating jobs, and you’re going to have many more units of housing. It’s going to increase the tax base of the city, and it’s going to make it easier for people to not have automobiles. To go to work you could literally walk down through the park to your job in downtown Pittsburgh,” said Doyle.
Doyle notes the city needs a lot more than $1.5 million to finish the effort.
“It’s a huge undertaking. We’re talking about 100s of millions of dollars that’s going to span over a number of years. So this initial grant, the planning grant, the 1.5 million dollars it’s just a tiny small piece of the beginning of this this package,” said Doyle.
Minority and female owned business participation will contribute to 45% of the overall construction of the 28 acres.
Doyle estimated it will be about 10 years before the project begins major construction.