Last week, more than 300 new parking spaces opened for commuters on the site of the former Civic Arena. That number will shortly increase to 800, and thanks to the work of the Hill Consensus Group and city Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle, half of the parking taxes generated from those spaces will be used exclusively for Hill District development.
“It’s not as big a contribution as we had initially asked for—$1 for every car parked on the site—but we fully support Councilman Lavelle’s legislation and anticipate a substantial investment,” said Hill Consensus Group Chairman Carl Redwood. “This is a definite positive for the Hill. We just need to make sure the developers it helps give back to the community.”
The legislation, introduced by Lavelle in April, calls for the city to allocate half of the parking tax revenue generated by the new spaces to the city/county Sports and Exhibition Authority for infrastructure installation and improvement on the 28-acre site.
The other 50 percent will go to the Urban Redevelopment Authority where it will be placed in a special account exclusively for support of Hill development projects.
Though the account will not reach its $2 million cap for some time, Lavelle said he expects there will be enough in there to support some projects within a year. He also said there are mechanisms in place to make sure that only projects supported by the community receive account funds.
“I sit on the URA board,” he said. “So projects will be vetted there and before the Hill Community Development Corporation and the Hill Planning Forum, and all will have to comply with the Greater Hill District Master Plan.”
The plan criteria include:
•Building upon the Hill’s African-American cultural legacy;
•Creating family friendly housing development without displacement;
•Economic empowerment and commercial development;
•Including green and sustainable design and;
•Improving mobility, transportation and parking.
It also includes requirements for the inclusion of Hill residents and businesses in all development projects. And that requirement has gotten off to a positive, if small, first step with Surface Striping and Painting, a Hill-based business, receiving the contract to paint the grid for the new parking spaces.
The Pittsburgh Penguins Hockey Club, which owns the development rights to the 28-acre site, has two years to begin development.
On a related note, on Sept. 5 Lavelle hosted a community meeting to evaluate five development proposals from four developers for URA-owned properties along the Centre Avenue business corridor. He said the board is likely to approve at least one of the proposals.