Thursday, July 5, 2007

HB 1631 and Hill District Community Benefits Agreement

Last week, the PA House passed a bill that seems to provide casino-generated funding that could be used for development projects in the Hill. According to the PG's report:

House Bill 1631, which still lacks Senate approval, authorizes an additional $500,000 per year for up to 30 years for a "community development fund for infrastructure, construction and redevelopment projects" near the proposed arena.
That money could go for development in the lower Hill District, adjacent to the new arena. Hill officials, including state Rep. Jake Wheatley, have insisted on being involved in the overall development of the lower Hill, including the land where Mellon Arena is.
Calling up the bill, the wording is somewhat vague:
(D) Payments related to the construction of a facility designated for use by a professional hockey franchise, including $500,000 $15,000,000 to a nonprofit community development fund to fund infrastructure, construction and redevelopment projects
(Base Project Allocation - $8,000,000)
This is to be $500,000 for 30 yrs yielding $15 million total to this development fund. That accounts for half a million of the base project allocation but does the rest of the $7.5 million go towards state grants to Allegheny County and city of Pittsburgh for infrastructure (new plumbing/electric/roads in and out of arena) improvements for the arena? Is that a reserve for overage costs that the state and the Penguins will share (up to $10 million to each)?

Secondly, did anyone check with community members about how it might be publicly interpreted that activists, many Hill District residents, refused to have a casino in their neighborhood but will be given casino-generated funds?

Thirdly, the Hill District is left with a 'good faith' arrangement with the Penguins for their share of a community benefits agreement. No master plan on development in the Hill has been coordinated with arena construction plans.

At least this is a start, but of what is the question.

7 comments:

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Bram Reichbaum said...

Before the casino license was awarded, the Isle of Capri plan was portrayed as the only surefire way to fund a new arena, and it also promised great development benefits for the Hill.

In order to level the playing field and take the politics of hockey out of consideration, Governor Rendell pledged a wad of state money toward putting a new arena in the Hill, AND to Hill development. And he promised ON BEHALF OF Harrah's and PITG, that they would be made to contribute as well.

Harrah's pointedly never really agreed to that arrangment. Don Barden of PITG, on the other hand, was very open to the idea.

That agreeableness was part of what made Barden to be seen as such a strong choice for the license.

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