Penguins seek minority-owned developer for housing at former Civic Arena site

CivicArenaSite from 60th fl of US Steel bldg
Date Published: 
Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A view of the Lower Hill and former site of the Civic Area near Consol Energy Center from the 60th floor of the U.S. Steel Tower

With the new U.S. Steel headquarters locked up, the Pittsburgh Penguins are keying in on another aspect of the 28-acre redevelopment of the former Civic Arena site -- housing.

Team officials are seeking a minority-owned development firm to handle at least 250 units of the 1,100 units of housing planned on the 10 acres of land in the lower Hill District closest to Crawford Square.

The Penguins issued a request for qualifications for the developer Friday, with responses due June 12. They hope to make a selection by mid July.

Whatever firm is chosen will work closely with St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Salazar, which was hired by the Penguins in 2013 to be the lead developer on the housing. The units developed by the minority firm would be separate from the 850 to be done by McCormack Baron.

The Penguins, who hold the development rights to the land, wanted to bring the minority-owned firm on board this summer to coordinate with McCormack Baron in anticipation of starting the residential development in the first half of 2016, said Travis Williams, chief operating officer.

"This is another step in the process of making sure it happens," he said.

The Penguins are looking for minority-owned developers that "have a proven combination of experience, financial capacity, and expertise in the design, development and construction of sustainable, urban, residential and mixed use projects," according to the request for qualifications.

Mr. Williams said it is possible that more than one minority-owned firm could be selected to do the work. He said the team is expecting a good response to the request for qualifications.

"I know there's a lot of interest around this, both locally and nationally," he said.

The commitment to using a minority-owned developer to build at least 250 units of housing is part of the Community Collaboration and Implementation Plan agreed to by the team, Hill leaders, and local politicians last year.

While the request for qualifications is open to both minority- and women-owned firms, the intent is to hire a minority company, in accordance with the agreement, Mr. Williams said.

Marimba Milliones, CEO and president of the Hill Community Development Corp., said the release of the request for qualifications was encouraging given the work that went into drafting the community collaboration agreement.

"I'm definitely celebrating that we have a step in the right direction," she said.

But she stressed that the housing and other aspects of the arena redevelopment ultimately will be judged on how they benefit the community as a whole.

"I think at the end of the day we all have to measure ourselves through outcomes," she said.

City Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle, D-Hill District, said that, ideally, the RFQ would have been issued earlier. But he believes there's still enough time to select a developer to work in concert with McCormack Baron in advance of construction. "I think we're in a good place," he said.

Of the 1,100 units of housing planned at the former arena site, 20 percent must be affordable to residents making between 60 to 80 percent of the area median income.

The residences are part of a broader redevelopment that could total more than $500 million and includes 632,000 square feet of office and 250,000 square feet of commercial space.

U.S. Steel already has committed to building its new headquarters on the site just below the parcels designated for housing. Construction is expected to start this fall, with completion set for fall 2017.

The Penguins plan to use part of the $15 million in credits they secured in the 2007 deal with the state and local politicians to build Consol Energy Center to pay for the land needed for the U.S. Steel project and the housing. To date, they have spent $475,000 in credits in developing of the Cambria Suites Hotel adjacent to Consol.


Mark Belko; mbelko [at] or 412-263-1262.