Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Hill District Makes Counter-Offer

Post-Gazette reporter Wade Malcolm gets it right. (P-G, Wade Malcolm)

Lifelong Hill District resident Brenda Tate held up a copy of a proposed community benefits agreement for the new Penguins arena and asked: "Anybody got a match?"

That was the spark that brought to a close a lengthy ensemble production -- a 25-30 minute press conference featuring a cast of eight or nine neighborhood leaders from a broad array of factions. They were all saying basically the same thing.

Among other complaints, leaders of the One Hill Community Benefits Agreement Coalition said their chief concern is that the proposed agreement is not binding and offers only "vague promises and general concepts."


The group has asked for creation of a development fund that would be administered by directors selected by the city, county and community. The proposed agreement does not address that demand.

That's the central sticking point. There was also much talk about the Blueprint for a Livable Hill, and about priorities that have repeatedly been put forward since the days of the Hill District Gaming Task Force.

One Hill leaders also are miffed that the proposed agreement was distributed through the news media and was not the result of a bargaining session with them.

Nobody liked that.

"This isn't a community benefits agreement," said One Hill Chairman Carl Redwood. "This is a Penguins benefit agreement."

He used that line twice.

One Hill leaders have suggested that development money could come from the millions the Penguins stand to make from parking revenues. The group believes the neighborhood surrounding the new arena should benefit from public subsidies the project has received, something that didn't happen when Mellon Arena was built in the 1960s.

Never a bad idea to learn from history.


Tribune-Review droideka Jeremy Boren treats us to a more forward-looking perspective. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

Coalition members are pushing to establish a community benefits agreement before the city Planning Commission approves a master plan for the arena, which is set to open for the 2010-11 season. The commission is scheduled to vote Jan. 14.

That's a Monday. Mark your calendar.

"Without a community benefits agreement, we will do everything in our power to stop construction of the arena," Redwood said.

There was talk of sleeping bags.

Urban Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Patrick Ford said he and Ravenstahl are recommending that the Planning Commission approve the arena plan regardless of the Hill District group's protests.

Big surprise there.

Ravenstahl's press secretary, Alecia Sirk, said the Urban Redevelopment Authority has invested $240 million to develop about 1,900 housing units in the Hill District since 1990. Much of the development was done with input from neighborhood groups.

This deserves to be explored a little. It's always good to really thoroughly review the history of a given situation.


  1. Okay, so I'll leave the first comment. I just want to say that while I would not have burned the agreement myself (I get the chance to write a scathing response), I am not embarrassed by Brenda Tate or what she did. At first, there were some issues because nobody knew it was the agreement. This happened after the press conference, out of the blue and it was unplanned. But I don't want for people to vilify her because unlike myself, Ms. Tate was, literally, displaced from the Lower Hill during the late 50's/early 60's and her historical memory is much longer, much more personal and much more entrenched than mine. She was soooo disgusted with the letter and I have to say that I totally understand why. So, she lit it in flames, so what? I think it's important for everyone to understand that this type of inequality and injustice (do not let the strawman that we want unaccountable cash payments fool you) is precisely what serves as the basis for the types of riots that really does send a community (or downtown buildings or other neighborhoods or whatever the object/s of someone's angest) up in flames. We need to learn lessons from our past and not repeat our mistakes. Right now, only Hill residents are working hard not to allow those mistakes to be repeated. By the way, you can click on my blog and hear Brenda Tate for yourself in one of the YouTube vidoes. She's not crazy or, in any way, outlandish.

  2. For the record, Dr. G stood with, but did not speak at, the press conference. Nor did the One Hill vice-chair.

  3. "...the Urban Redevelopment Authority has invested $240 million to develop about 1,900 housing units in the Hill District since 1990. Much of the development was done with input from neighborhood groups."

    What kind of input from neighborhood groups? Stakeholder-level input from neighborhood groups?

    If not, is it any wonder the $240 million and the 1,900 units have not produced an economic wonderment?