Monday, May 23, 2011

Civic Arena Hearing

Pittsburgh City Council held a public hearing in Uptown to hear testimonials from residents about whether the Civic Arena should stay or go.

If city council grants the arena historic status, it could save the building from being knocked down. And a lot of people have a lot to say about that.

On Monday night over 70 people had something to say about it – either in favor of re-purposing the building, or knocking it down and redeveloping the land. A little more than half believed the arena should be saved. They gave testimonial to five council members in a church sandwiched between the old arena and the recently constructed one.

Among the speakers was Sala Udin, former councilman and actor who wants the building to come down.

"The redevelopment can begin the healing process to preserve the people," he said.

From its inception, the arena and the 28 acres surrounding it has been controversial – displacing 8,000 Lower Hill District residents and destroying a community. Last year, after the arena was shuttered for a new neighboring complex, the Sports and Exhibition Authority voted to knock down the building.

Local groups have filed for historic status. Among them, Preservation Pittsburgh, which helped organize a 50th Anniversary of the arena celebration just before Monday’s meeting. Scott Lieb, president of the group said although the arena is a remnant of urban renewal, it is here now and should be used to benefit the community. He also said the building is unique and is part of the fabric of the city.

"This building was revolutionary when it was built in 1961. It was the first retractable dome building in the US. It really is a part of Pittsburgh’s brand, it uses technology from Westinghouse, from US Steel, from American bridge," he said at the celebration.

The city’s historic and review and planning commissions have already rejected historic status.

Council has until mid-August to take a final vote.

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