The Penguins expect to break ground in November on the first batch of 935 residential units at the former Civic Arena site — a 28-acre tract the team has been working to develop for a decade.
“It's incumbent on all of us, though, to deliver on that plan,” Penguins Chief Operating Officer Travis Williams told several dozen community members, trade workers and business owners Wednesday night. He spoke at a public meeting at the Jeron X. Grayson Center in Pittsburgh's Lower Hill District neighborhood.
The franchise has signed an option agreement pledging to comply with a final set of conditions requested by Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority last month, Williams said.
Wednesday marked the first in a series of public meetings to share more details about project designs, recruit locally based trade workers and collect community input during the last leg of planning.
As construction advances, “it's important that the Penguins re-engage the community on the specifics of the plan,” said Marimba Milliones, president and CEO of the Hill District Community Development Corp.
Her group has worked to ensure developers take into account the needs and input of local residents, and to prioritize issues such as affordable housing and job opportunities for local residents and minority workers and business owners.
MINORITY-OWNED FIRM UNVEILED
Though St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Salazar is the project's primary housing developer, at least 250 units must be developed by a minority-owned company under agreed-upon terms.
On Wednesday, Williams identified the minority-owned company the Penguins has selected: Intergen Real Estate Group, made up of a trio of longtime friends who teamed up specifically for the project.
Intergen team leader Keith B. Key, 50, of KBK Enterprises — which has done more than $1 billion in development citywide as well as around the country — said he joined with partners Bomani Howze, 40, and Bob Agbede, 60, to help rebuild and revitalize the place where they grew up.
“This is home for me. I'm glad that the community wanted to see a minority developer involved in some way, shape or form, and I know that we had the wherewithal to do it,” Key said. “I wanted to make sure that we didn't sit on the sideline — that we really got involved in and became part of something that was meaningful to all of the people in the Hill who have a history with the Civic Arena and its previous existence.”
To make way for the Civic Arena, which opened in 1961, large swaths of the Hill District were demolished and more than 8,000 residents and 400 businesses were forced out of the historically black neighborhood.
“A lot of people were displaced — family members, grandparents and so forth — so now is a chance for us to be part of building something that we were a part of having to evacuate,” Key said.
HOUSING PLANS DETAILED
The first phase of residential construction in the Lower Hill will include 54 “affordable” units at the corner of Crawford Street and Wylie Avenue.
They will be adjacent to 201 market-rate units in a rectangular block along Crawford stretching to Centre Avenue, design renderings presented Wednesday show.
The second phase — to be developed by Intergen — includes 250 mixed-income residential units and community open space.
Another 450 units will follow in the third through fifth phases.
Prospective tenants can choose from one-bedroom units at 612 square feet, two-bedroom units at 928 square feet and three-bedroom units at 1,164 square feet, each with its own washer and dryer.
Under terms previously disclosed, the Penguins must develop 6.45 acres by 2020 and 10.75 acres by 2023 or face losing 30 percent of the parking revenue from lots that cover most of the property.
The Penguins won the rights to develop the site in 2007, but demolition work on the Civic Arena was not completed until late March 2012.
The Penguins have since grappled with challenges in negotiating with city and community leaders and securing an anchor tenant.
In late October, Mayor Bill Peduto vowed the city would reclaim part of the 28-acre tract if the owners miss another development deadline.
“Folks have been waiting for many years to hear the specifics of housing, retail and commercial development on the Lower Hill District,” Milliones said. “It's going to be very important for them to share as much detail as possible about the timeline and the overall vision that they have been crafting.”
Among new conditions sought by the URA, the team will lose 40 percent of parking revenue for missing deadlines. URA board members also removed a clause from the agreement that permits the team to miss the 2023 deadline without penalty if Hill District-based community groups protest and cause a development delay.
The agreement eliminated a $15 million credit available for the Penguins to purchase the 28 acres.
The Penguins will get the parcels for free.
A final condition requested by the URA requires the city to divert 10 percent of parking revenue on a proposed parking garage to a fund for other development in the Hill District.
Williams said he and his partners agreed to each additional stipulation.
URA PASSES PLAN, 3-2
The city-county Sports and Exhibition Authority, which shares ownership of the 28-acre property, approved the deal shortly before the URA did so on a 3-2 vote.
URA board members Jim Ferlo of Highland Park and R. Daniel Lavelle of the Hill District, who also serves on Pittsburgh City Council, voted against the deal, with Ferlo suggesting the URA pay the Penguins $15 million for the property since he still doesn't “think the Penguins are capable of developing this site.”
The Penguins and their partners plan to solicit bids for phase one next September, start construction in November and complete the first 255 housing units by November 2020. They will host two more public planning meetings in January and in February.
Keith B. Key was already well familiar with the beige-brick building that rises five stories on Fifth Avenue at the end of the Birmingham Bridge in Uptown.
"We’ve been looking in that area for quite a while," he said. "I’m a Hill District-born kid so I knew the area pretty well."
Key grew up in Pittsburgh, but his company KBK Enterprises, is headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, with a local office in the Mexican War Streets.
The former Burrell Scientific building, actually three combined structures, at 2231 Fifth Avenue, was just down the hill from where KBK developed 366 residential units for the two-phase Skyline Terrace development in the Hill District.
So, Key found it to be a natural progression to buy the property and prepare it for a future redevelopment, considering mixed-income residential units, retail and office, and perhaps even a new local office for his company.
Allegheny County real estate records indicate that an affiliate of KBK called 2211 Fifth Avenue Development LLC bought the main Burrell building and three other neighboring parcels for $1.76 million in a transaction that closed in mid-December 2018.
Already active elsewhere in Pittsburgh, including on the site of the former Civic Arena as well in Homewood, Key has had architects explore the building in order to hash out a design approach for redeveloping the property, which could include new construction on some of the surrounding lots.
Key sees the property as a major gateway site for Uptown that is in close proximity to Oakland, the South Side and downtown.
"It will define the entrance to Uptown," said Key. "We want to do something really special there."
He has every reason to think there's strong demand for more residential units there, noting that Skyline Terrance is fully leased, with a waiting list of 1,000 people.
Overall, KBK has developed about 1,000 units of housing in the city of Pittsburgh, said Key, most of it mixed-income, some with affordable components.
He expects to establish a plan for the redevelopment of the 63,000-plus-sqare-foot building and its 1.6-acre site in the next few months.
"We're hoping that between now and mid-year we’ll have it locked and loaded," said Key.
KBK's redevelopment of the property follows a previous plan by an affiliate of a nonprofit called Made Right Here to buy the building and reconfiguring it as an advanced manufacturing/coworking facility which fell through and moved on to the North Side.
Jean McNutt, executive director of Uptown Partners of Pittsburgh, a community development organization in the neighborhood, described the property's redevelopment as "critical" for the neighborhood as well as for its connection to the nearby Hill District.
"He does seem like he’s going to be a good partner for us to work with," she said of Key.
She added, "we look forward to a dynamic development project" and to expect her organization to "encourage bold design" along with sustainable features and jobs for residents of the neighborhood.
"I think that's his wheelhouse," she said.
A building that was once a former meat market will now serve as the new office space for community supportive services under the KBK Foundation. Formerly the Fiore Building it is now known as the Ferlo Building. The space is approximately 1490 square feet and is one of the oldest remaining buildings and most notable representations of Larimer avenues’ connection to its’ Italian Heritage in Pittsburgh. The entire first floor is accessible to persons with disabilities and has been renovated to include a waiting/reception area, open office space for 4-5 staff members, work/copy area, kitchenette, unisex restroom and a conference room. The second floor contains two private office areas.
The building celebrated its grand opening on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 and was dedicated and named after retired Senator Jim Ferlo. The retired Senator has served the public for more than 25 years as a City of Pittsburgh Council Member and President, and a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania State Senator.
The Office of Student Life at The Ohio State University in collaboration with Keith B. Key, owner and CEO of Keith B. Key Enterprises, have created the Keith B. Key Buckeye Social Entrepreneurship Program (BSEP). The program officially launched January 26, 2017 with world known Jeni Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, featured as the guest workshop lecturer. BSEP creates a social entrepreneurship environment that encourages collaboration among academic disciplines to maximize learning, creative outcomes and profitability. With the support and structure offered by BSEP, students are connected to professional development opportunities, resources and the expertise of social entrepreneurs, faculty and community members in order to foster and advance their social entrepreneurial endeavors.
Please visit The BSEP website to learn more about this very important initiative.
In July 2010, The KBK Foundation launched a technology initiative at Garfield Commons known as Project Uplift. The purpose of this initiative is to decrease the digital divide among low income residents by increasing opportunities to use computers and the internet. Thus by improving the access and speed in which residents can search for and receive information. As part of the initiative, residents who successfully completed a three week computer program, in addition to being in good standing with property management, received a complete computer package free of charge. This included a monitor, cpu, mouse and keyboard. Residents also received a free printer at no expense, in addition to one free year of internet services.
The KBK Foundation provides services that are reshaping the housing landscape to create a sense of neighborhood and ownership in the Garfield community and nationwide. By including this initiative in the revitalization of the Garfield community it adds validity to the old adage “information is power.” This has improved the quality of life for the citizens we serve by making the citizens and community stronger. The donation of computers is but one of many programs anticipated for the Garfield community. The total computer commitment for Garfield Commons will be as much as $250,000. The Foundation also committed another $250,000 to make the community wireless to remove all barriers to internet access.
The KBK Foundation has partnered with the Challenge Program, a local organization that awards high school students in the areas of academic excellence, perfect attendance, civic responsibility and most improved grades at Peabody High School. Students in grades 10-12 receive $250 checks from The KBK Foundation in each of the previously mentioned areas. The KBK Foundation has not only been involved with Peabody High School for four years but donated funds so that all 8 high schools in the Pittsburgh School district could participate in The Challenge Program. The KBK Foundation has donated $40,000 to this initiative and has received a tremendous response from community members regarding this commitment to the youth of the city.