The National Trust for Historic Preservation is weighing in on the proposed demolition of the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh. The Sports and Exhibition Authority (SEA) of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County is considering a plan to raze the arena and develop that site and surrounding land. The National Trust sent a letter to SEA Executive Director Mary Conturo warning against the "anticipatory demolition" of the arena.
The letter, from the National Trust's Deputy General Counsel and the director of the Northeast Field Office, commends the SEA for convening a public hearing August 23 as part of the review process mandated by the Pennsylvania History Code "to hear the views of the public on this important issue. Meanwhile, however, we have reviewed the letters you have received from the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation and from Andrea C. Ferster on behalf of Preservation Pittsburgh and Reuse the Igloo, and we agree with the procedural and legal concerns raised in those letters."
The letter warned that review process cannot substitute for a federal review if the SEA intends to see federal funding, whether it's for road improvements at the site or other grants such as Community Development Block Grants for the redevelopment. The federal review would only kick in after a request is made for federal monies...and that is expected.
"In sum, demolition of the historic Mellon Arena, prior to the application for federal
funding or permits, and prior to the initiation of Section 106 review, would severely
jeopardize future federal funding for any element of the proposed redevelopment plan, because of the penalty for anticipatory demolition under Section 110(k) of the
NHPA (National Historic Preservation Act). The National Trust for Historic Preservation strongly urges the SEA not to take any action leading to the demolition of the Mellon Arena, in order to avoid the risk of this future penalty."
The SEA board has not set a date for a decision on the fate of the Civic Arena.