Saturday, January 12, 2008

Never Jump at the First Offer

Good news!

This willingness to provide seed money for Hill District neighborhood initiatives could be just the right mechanism. This was indeed a substantively productive meeting, as various press accounts report.

Negotiations will continue through the weekend at least. Everyone seemed optimistic and in good spirits.

Mayor Ravenstahl said,

There's a lot commitments that are there on the table through the CBA (community benefit agreement), and we need to take a step back and put our personalities aside for a minute and take a look at what the potential of that community is. (Bob Mayo, WTAE)

The Hill had a good day.


There is this new book out that says first impressions, or snap judgements, can be very important.

First of all, $2 million seems a little shabby. We are not talking in relation to the $10 million proposal that the ministers plunked on the table many months ago. We are talking in relation to the total expendable, non-arena related development capital the Penguins control.

What would a pie chart look like? The Penguins should be desiring to diversify their portfolio. What if the investments of the government infrastructure do not perform well?

The Hill should be giving government a run for its money, in a sporting sense of course.

The Comet is extremely optimistic about many of these ideas and development initiatives that are out there. It is time to stop talking about the politics of who wins and who loses, and time to get behind the idea of seed money as ... well, as seeds. Seeds we are planting.

All we are saying is ... $2 million? Those better be some magic beans. Besides which, who is actually getting the beans?


Which brings us to the issue of what we know about the grocery store. Correct to start with the grocery store, by the way. Why not?

The most significant progress was the city and Penguins commitment to provide $2 million toward attracting a grocery store for the Hill District, which does not have one.

The city's Urban Redevelopment Authority will pay $1 million and the Pens will match it, said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

"There was significant progress made on a lot of issues," said Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato.
(Trib, Jeremy Boren)

Who would own this grocery store? Does it even fall into the column of seed money, or is this a different (and welcome) initiative?

Every last investment certainly does not need to be owned or co-owned by a Hill District resident -- but remember that part of this project is giving neighborhood residents a degree of control along with a degree of oversight, and where appropriate, a degree of ownership.

We should not install Ron Burkle as czar of every development project -- it would be a terrible burden for him, and counterproductive.

Still, Mr. Burkle is good at the grocery store game. We are fortunate that significant progress was made on a variety of issues. We are probably getting worked up over nothing.


No decision has been made at this point on whether Mr. Ravenstahl will seek to postpone Monday's Planning Commission vote on an arena master plan. A decision on what to do about that will be made based on whatever progress is made this weekend. (P-G, Mark Belko)

It seems like we have some real momentum going. Now that all of the parties are finally at the bargaining table, the ice is cracking and things are starting to get done.

It would be a shame to short-circuit this process because of an arbitrary deadline. Besides which, neither the community nor the Planning Commission would have any clear idea just what business they are considering.

The Comet's position on master plan approval stands: No CBA, No Deal.

The arrangement to finance this arena development took months upon nervous months. If it takes a few extra workdays to hammer out the deal to allocate those resources, so be it.

At the same time, we need to have consideration for our developers, the Penguins, and their operations calendar. Put it on the the Planning Commission's schedule once again in two weeks or so, and continue negotiating.


The Comet relates to the feeling that it would be nice if this problem were over already -- if we had some form of signed legal document we could frame, and we could hang a Mission Accomplished banner over it and be done with it.

We should not allow that sentiment to work against us. The government infrastructure will eat that for breakfast. The government infrastructure expects the Hill to jump at the first offer.

Take heart. Two weeks. The wind is finally at our backs.

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