Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Penguins Arena Plan Questioned

A market and fiscal feasibility review of the Penguin's plan for Mellon Arena finds the numbers used to justify demolition are flawed. That's according to Todd Poole of 4Ward planning, presented his findings at the Sports and Exhibition Authority meeting Tuesday night at the Convention Center. He was asked by Re-Use the Igloo and Preservation Pittsburgh to look at the land use impacts. Poole says one of the proposals is for a 65-thousand square foot multi-screened cinema as part of the redevelopment of the arena site in the lower Hill District. He says when considering the number of theaters within a 15 minute drive, the area is already over screened. Poole says a huge theater would pull business from existing film screens in the city. He says if there are charges to park at such a theater in the city it would also be a negative factor for potential patrons.

Poole says the Penguins are also proposing 8 to 9 restaurants of 8-thousand square feet. As a point of reference, he says that's similar in size to such chain restaurants as PF Chang's, Cheesecake Factory or Macaroni Grill. When looking at the benchmarks for the amount of business, he says the restaurants would have to do annually over $38-million dollars in gross restaurant sales. Poole says the problem is there are already several restaurants in the central business district and surrounding area. He says that $38-million dollars today would represent about 46 percent of the current restaurant sales in the central business district and 66 percent of sales for restaurants in the immediate outskirts. Poole says to drop that much restaurant space down you would be taking business away from existing restaurants in the city of Pittsburgh. He says it's bad economic policy. He estimates that today, without even adding any more restaurant space, there's probably about a half million square feet of restaurant space in excess of what's necessary in a 30 minute travel distance from Mellon Arena.

The office space component of the Penguin's development proposal is also subject to challenge, according to Poole. He says the Penguins are proposing about 608-thousand square feet of new office space at the location. In the market place today in the downtown area, he estimates there is roughly 5.2 million square feet of available space for lease or sale. That's about the equivalent of almost two empty US Steel Tower buildings.

Poole says he concurs with the Penguin's proposal for residential units and would recommend that they would add more. He says the more residential you concentrate in the downtown area of the lower Hill the more support is added for existing businesses.

Poole says the figures and assumptions being used to justify the demolition of Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena are flawed. He recommends any decision by the SEA board members regarding the building should be postponed until proper assessments are made.

Listen to a report by DUQ's Alexandria Chaklos previewing the meeting.

DUQ Reporter Alexandria Chaklos spoke with people attending the final concert (James Taylor and Carole King) at the Mellon Arena about their arena memories and whether it should be saved or razed.

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