During a Feb. 22 meeting with the New Pittsburgh Courier’s editorial board, Morehouse and senior consultant Ron Porter essentially said they are not the bad guys they’ve been made out to be, bent on bulldozing the Hill District—again—for their own enrichment.
“That’s the construct that’s out there,” said Morehouse. “Fifty years ago, the Penguins built the arena and kicked everyone out—the same as now. First of all, the Penguins didn’t exist 50 years ago. (Courier, Christian Morrow)
We're not blaming you. We're blaming ourselves.
We're blaming our own out-of-control Urban Redevelopment Authority -- which did in fact exist 50 years ago, and was directly implicated in the tragedies of arrogance at that time.
We blame the very same nexus of developers, contractors, consultants and a certain set of city planners and administrators -- who collectively have botched development after development after development in the City of Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh Penguins -- we only desire to see you avoid the old mistakes. We want you to break the mold, break our old civic patterns, and be a huge success story.
"Secondly, no person or business has been forced out. We even bought out the synagogue. And the new arena is closer to the business area than to homes in the Hill.”
Yes, and that is precisely the tragedy. Downtown and the Hill District need to be virtually as one, if either are to realize their potential.
The perception of the deal as publicly financed, using “taxpayer dollars,” is also flawed and being used against the Penguins he said. “Half of that is coming from (Majestic Star Casino owner) Don Barden, because he wanted to help improve the Hill, and half is from gaming revenue,” said Morehouse. “So the only people being ‘taxed’ are the gamblers.”
We are the gamblers. The "gaming revenue" is revenue derived from taxation upon gaming. So it is taxpayer dollars, that would otherwise have gone towards other public functions.
As to Don Barden's contribution...
The $15 million received from those two sources annually for 30 years will pay the debt service on the bond to build the $290 million facility.
So it's only going "to help improve the Hill" in an indirect manner?
The Penguins also negotiated all the parking revenue from its lots, and they also will receive development tax credits for the 28 acres where the current Mellon Arena now stands. But for each year the land remains undeveloped after the new arena is complete, the credits are lost.
There again! The unavoidable 28 acres!
All that public land -- right smack up against Downtown -- was it really given to the Penguins carte blanche? Government officials surrendered absolutely all normal responsibilities for civic design and critical infrastructure, simply by handing over development rights upon that land?
Porter, however, said despite the teams efforts, the “arcane and thick” politics of the Hill community may remain difficult to work through.
“The mentality of entitlement is a tough one to crack.”
Provocative terminology from Penguins senior consultant Ron Porter -- who until recently chaired the Hill House Economic Development Corporation, and before that the Hill House Association (CORRECTED).