Over less than one week, years of wrangling and debating a proposed music venue at the former Civic Arena site have been resolved.
Developers received approval Thursday from two government boards to develop a LiveNation music venue along with a six-story parking garage, business incubator and public safety facility on a 2.56 acre parcel in the Lower Hill District. The cost of the project is expected to be $110 million. The Penguins-picked developer, Buccini/Pollin Group [BPG], expects the first ticket sale event to happen in January 2026.
Plans for the area have been in the works since 2019 and were first approved in January by the City Planning Commission, leaving final approval up to the boards of the Sports & Exhibition Authority [SEA] and the Urban Redevelopment Authority [URA], which together control the former arena site. The developers briefed the URA board in March, expecting a vote in April that never materialized on the board’s agenda. But on Thursday afternoon the URA board approved the plans after the SEA approved in the morning.
“Promises made around the Greater Hill District are indeed taking place, which is why we’re able to vote on this,” said Pittsburgh Councilman Daniel Lavelle, a URA board member. “This allows for the Greater Hill District to directly benefit.”
Thursday’s votes, which will lead to the transfer of the acreage to the development team, served as a finale to a years-long struggle to determine technical details for the proposed buildings and negotiate the development’s contributions to the surrounding community. Much of the neighborhood advocacy was done by the Hill Community Development Corporation [Hill CDC]. The organization’s president and CEO, Marimba Milliones, said during the SEA’s board meeting that many of the disagreements over the proposal were resolved in the prior 48 hours.
“The areas of the Hill District with the greatest need should receive the greatest benefit since developers receive our tax dollars for their private developments,” Milliones said in a press release announcing the agreement.
She also noted that in the coming weeks community members have to keep pushing to make sure the developers stick to the agreement. During the SEA board meeting Penguins Senior Vice President for Development Craig Dunham noted that if the agreed-upon terms aren’t honored the board could rescind their approval of construction.
Lavelle and other members of the URA board said they were able to vote on the matter because BPG had addressed several community concerns about implementation of a 2019 agreement. Some of those resolved issues include an upfront investment by the developers of $400,000 in the Ammon Recreation Center for Hill District youth, with another $450,000 to be paid out over the next two years.
The addition of a $2 surcharge on ticket sales was also hailed as an important concession.
The funds from the surcharge will go to the Greater Hill District Neighborhood Reinvestment Fund, which also received $7.18 million when construction began on the FNB Financial Center, on another part of the former arena site, in September 2021.
URA Executive Director Susheela Nemani-Stanger congratulated the developers for their updated plans.
“You’re allowing for walkability and connecting the Hill to Downtown,” she said. “That’s important and needs to happen.”
She also noted that among other things, the agreement calls for the developers to coordinate with the New Granada Theater, a multi-level, mixed-use redevelopment project spearheaded by the Hill CDC. In the agreement, LiveNation commits to booking 25 acts per year in the New Granada Theater and that up to 250 parking spaces in the future six-story garage must be made available for five years to the theatergoers.
The development team must also donate $100,000 to the theater.
Kyle Chintalapalli, chair of the URA board and the city’s chief economic development officer, thanked community members for pursuing the agreements and for making sure that they were added to the final plan.
“I want to thank them for continually pushing us and making us do better,” he said.
Eric Jankiewicz is PublicSource’s economic development reporter, and can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter@ericjankiewicz.
Know more than you did before? Support this work with a MATCHED gift!
Through Dec. 31, the Wyncote Foundation, Loud Hound Foundation and our generous local match pool supporters will match your new monthly donation 12 times or double your one-time gift, all up to $1,000. Now that's good news!
Readers tell us they can't find the information they get from our reporting anywhere else, and we're proud to provide this important service for our community. We work hard to produce accurate, timely, impactful journalism without paywalls that keeps our region informed and moving forward.
However, only about .1% of the people who read our stories contribute to our work financially. Our newsroom depends on the generosity of readers like yourself to make our high-quality local journalism possible, and the costs of the resources it takes to produce it have been rising, so each member means a lot to us.
Your MATCHED donation to our nonprofit newsroom helps ensure everyone in Allegheny County can stay up-to-date about decisions and events that affect them. Please make your gift of support now.