The Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority is paying for what will be the third round of environmental testing of the former Civic Arena site.
The board approved an agreement Thursday with Duquesne-based KU Resources Several to evaluate the condition of the site and gather information on the historic use of the land. Several URA board members voiced frustration during the meeting because of the stalled development, but said paying for the survey would help move development forward.
The URA owns the land, but has a 10-year option agreement with the Pittsburgh Penguins. That means the Penguins plan to develop the land and eventually buy it from the URA. Board Chairman Kevin Acklin said Thursday’s agreement stipulates that the Penguins will have to pay back the survey's cost, which could be up to $250,000, if the organization moves forward with planned residential development.
“If they move forward with the development then that money will be reimbursed to the URA,” he said. “If they don’t move forward with the development, then we have the environmental site assessment with respect to a piece of developable land in the city and there’s value to that.”
A representative of the Pittsburgh Penguins who attended the meeting declined to comment.
URA board member Jim Ferlo was the lone "no" vote. He said many residents in the Hill District have a growing concern with whether the Penguins plan to develop the site. He said he would rather the URA manage the site, because he has no faith in the Penguins to follow through.
“I think they’re disingenuous, I think they’re collecting a lot of money on the daily parking activities on that site that should be developed,” he said. “And I really see no progressive movement by the Penguins organization.”
Ferlo said he’s generally opposed to taking over private property with the use of eminent domain, but in this instance there are no structures built on the land.
“If we have to utilize or at least give consideration to using eminent domain as a way of taking back the development rights, we would have to pay some market value for that obviously,” he said.
Acklin said the Penguins paid for a six month pause of development in September. Once the results of the survey come back, the organization could start site development as early as February.