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Public Meeting Over Future Of Civic Arena Site Becomes Heated

HILL DISTRICT (KDKA)- Hundreds showed up to voice their concerns over the Pittsburgh Penguins' plans to redevelop the former Civic Arena site Monday night.

A public meeting was held to discuss the preliminary land development plan the Penguins have submitted to the city. They envision redeveloping the site by adding apartments, townhouses, sidewalk cafes, stores and plazas.

The Penguins won the right to develop the old Civic Arena site as part of the 2007 deal to build the Consol Energy Center. Eleven months ago, the team presented their plans to the Hill District community, which many people were resistant. Last night's meeting saw much of the same.

Some residents of the Hill District brought signs that read, "Dear Penguins, Help Keep Pittsburgh Affordable" and "Penguins Get Money, We Get Promises."

Residents are worried about keeping affordable housing in the Hill District. The Penguins' plan involves building 20 percent affordable housing as part of the agreement, which includes 1,200 units that could be rented for as low as $600 a month.

"When you're doing a project of this nature, which is transformative, people are a bit resistant to change," said Penguins' Chief Operating Officer Travis Williams. "At the end of the day, not everybody is going to be on the same page, but we believe at the end of the day, what we're trying to accomplish is a positive change in this community."

The other concern for some residents is who will get to work on the redevelopment project.

One resident asked, "What I want to know, are we going to be from the time they stick that shovel in the ground and turn that dirt, are we going to be involved in that, all the way to the end?"

It's just one of the issues the Hill District CDC is dealing with.

"I would say there were a number of community issues that are ongoing," said Hill District CDC President/CEO Marima Milliones. "We have an opportunity to make an agreement on paper, whether or not it succeeds or fails, it's going to be based on people around the table and their commitment to making it happen."

"Community development can have emotion with it, but we know with that emotion is sincerity and a desire to make this the best development possible. They have a vested interest, they are stakeholders in the process, so we take their input to heart," said Williams.

The plan will serve as a blueprint for developing the site over the next ten years. Along with trying to win community support, the Pens must also get approval from the Pittsburgh Planning Commission and City Council on zoning changes.

The team will hold four more public meetings on the land development plan. The next meeting will be held on Oct. 13, from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Power Center at Duquesne University.

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