Ginormous Lower Hill article: No more picking factions


Get it while it’s hot:

Peduto sent a letter to the Penguins expressing his opinions two months ago.

“I haven’t shared it with anybody [until last week], but it was at about the same time as they were requesting my help in Washington to lobby for this,” Peduto says. “I said I could support it under three conditions,” one of which is the inclusion of the Crawford improvements.

“Number two, there has to be greater involvement of the community. The community is not [State Representative] Jake [Wheatley] and Daniel [Lavelle, who represents the Hill District in City Council],” says Peduto. “It’s beyond that. It’s the Hill House, which has been the ‘CDC’ of the Hill for a hundred years. It’s the Hill Consensus Group. And it’s Daniel, Jake and Marimba, but also [State Senator] Wayne Fontana, [County Council Representative] Bill Robinson, the County Exec [Rich Fitzgerald] and the Mayor.”

“So, there has to be greater involvement of the community, not just those who have been supportive of the Penguins.”


“They had the opportunity to be more inclusive in the process, and they haven’t. But I will promise them that they will have a seat at the table. I’m not going to take anyone’s seat away from them,” says Peduto. “But I am also going to make sure that nobody sits at a card table when the discussion is happening at the banquet table. My goal is not to pick one of them and say ‘You’re out and this one’s in,’ my goal is to make sure that all of them have an equal seat at the table when these discussions are happening.”  (UMT, Nancy Hart)

There’s a lot more in there, including updates, and my understanding is more material may still be added. But I thought that was pretty neat.

23 thoughts on “Ginormous Lower Hill article: No more picking factions

  1. Anonymous

    The idea that this process has been closed to the public is total BS. Peduto may not like that Lavelle and Wheatley are elected Hill leaders but they are and he should deal with that. Fontana and Fitzgerald and the Hill Consensus group were 100% on board with the TIGER grant. Peduto expressed reservations because Lavelle Wheatley and Milliones were taking a leadership role. He can pretend differently but his lack of support hurt the application. That kind of pettiness does not bode well for the future.

  2. Helen Gerhardt


    You write, “the Hill Consensus group were 100% on board with the TIGER grant.” Wow, guess I've woken up in a parallel universe today – I've been meeting and speaking with Hill District Consensus Group organizers regularly and your statement directly contradicts everything I've heard from them. Here is the statement that sent to me and the rest of their email list, which closely reflects the substance of the document that they distributed at the SPC public comment meeting.

    The Hill District Consensus Group opposes the application by the Sports and Exhibition Authority (SEA) for $21 million more in public subsidy for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    The SEA and the Penguins have not supported the Hill District Community Plan.

    The SEA and the Penguins want community support for this application. They claim they will address Hill District concerns later. The SEA and the Penguins have asked the community to trust them.


    The SEA has broken previous promises to the Hill District community. In 2007, they promised there would be public art projects as part of the Penguins Arena development in the Lower Hill District. The public provided over $500 million in debt service subsidies and other public subsidies totaling approximately $750 million for the Penguins Arena. The SEA promised to build a public art and environmental project that would cost approximately $1.5 million.

    This project was developed through a process. The SEA hired a consultant and announced the Public Art component of the Penguins Arena project. They issued a Request for Proposals to hire another consultant to lead the process. They received 17 responses from national firms and these proposals were narrowed down to 6 firms. Walter Hood was selected as the consultant for the Hill District public art process.

    Walter Hood, the Hill House and the Hill District Consensus Group held many community meetings to develop and design the Curtain Call project. Over many months, every Wednesday, Hill District residents brought pictures reflecting Hill District history to the lobby of Hill House to be scanned for inclusion in the Curtain Call project. The community designed the project expecting it would be real.

    And so, the Penguins Arena was built. The Penguins and the SEA claimed there was no money for the Curtain Call project.

    Now, six years later, while the Penguins receive all income from the new Arena, they claim they still have no money for the Curtain Call Public Art Project. To add insult to injury, the Penguins built a huge statue of Mario Lemieiux in the Curtain Call location.

    Now the Penguins owners are back, asking for $21 million more in public subsidy.

    No more public subsidies for the Penguins corporations until the Lower Hill District Strategies in the Hill District Community Plan are secured.

    What We Want:

    Curtain Call
    *We want the Curtain Call Public Art Project fully funded and we want Hill District control of the naming of streets and spaces in the Lower Hill to preserve the Hill District cultural legacy.

    Inclusionary Affordable Housing
    We want 30% of all housing built in the Lower Hill District to be affordable for low income people.

    Inclusionary Business Development
    We want 20% of all commercial space developed in the lower Hill District to be available for Hill District businesses to participate as owners.

    Dollar A Car Campaign
    We want to create a Community Improvement Fund to be funded by establishing a parking benefit district. $1 for each car parked in the Lower Hill District would go into the fund to support program initiatives in the Hill District Community Plan. This $1 parking surcharge should continue for the length of the Penguins Arena lease.

  3. Supporter of Peduto and Lavelle

    Bill Peduto has no idea what he is talking about, I am sorry to say. He seems to be following the Hill District Consensus Group which will definitely land him in a ball of confusion, and isn't Hill House a social service agency? What is he talking about? Someone please explain. #confused

  4. Bram Reichbaum

    The Consensus group advertised explicitly that they were opposed to further public subsidy unless W, X, Y and Z were addressed. Milliones in public comment at the SPC said the same thing regarding their documented implementation plan they are pursuing. Bill Robinson is a Hill elected leader. And as far as the importance generally of deferring to electeds: Darlene Harris and Adam Ravenstahl are my elected leaders, and if it so happened they determined we should jump off a bridge I would not feel obliged to support doing so as well.

    Peduto is duty-bound to pursue the kinds of things he promised voters, which includes opening negotiating tables way up and expecting more in exchange for taxpayer subsidies, while still chasing growth.

  5. Anonymous

    BR, I hate to say this but you seem to be a Peduto apologist. Generally I like you though! I think there are important issues to follow here, but you seem more drunk with the idea of Peduto than good standards of research. This federal subsidy Bill is pursuing for East Liberty is *subsidy* after all. How is that different than the Hill. His stances are contradictory and I am also confused, “Supporter of Peduto and Lavelle”!

  6. Bram Reichbaum

    Thank you for the general compliment! I'm unfamiliar with the East Liberty subsidy though, are you speaking of the one in Larimer? Because that one is all about building new affordable housing units the community is demanding, for example, and it enjoys a good deal of community support.

  7. Anonymous

    Bill also wanted to hurt David Morehouse, just like Bill is going around saying he won't deal with others that supported his opponents. Funny how the definition of community changes depending on what you want the outcome to be. Just so that we are clear, does this mean that whenever a CDC or community groups supports or opposes something it should rise and fall depending on that decision? I just want to know. Otherwise, the process is up for lots of funny business and those that support the mayor. It is easy to gerrymander some support or opposition for your rivals and supporters, respectively, if that is your game.

  8. Anonymous

    In today's PG, they say “Mr. Peduto has greased the wheels for tax-increment financing for a transit-oriented development project in East Liberty”. Plus bud rapid transit in Uptown is subsidy and he's been promoting that. I hate to say it but this is looking like petty politics in the Hill, but why? Although I don't live there, I think it's time for that community to be developed otherwise Downtown will never realize its promise. I also wonder if his council district was developed without subsidy. Do you know? I can't imagine. If it's not petty politics, then its something much worse, and I don't even want to think he could be even slightly racist. I don't think that's it… #ihopenot!

  9. Bram Reichbaum

    If you're looking for consistency, don't look for “does he like subsidies or not”. Nor is it a matter of, “Are we going to redevelop the Lower Hill or not.” I don't think anyone buys those formulations. What matters in terms of city leadership is whether there is a genuine effort to empower the whole community and a genuine effort on the part of the developer to accommodate their needs / desires commensurate with the level of public investment.

    The residents of the Hill certainly came out in force to support demolition of the arena, no doubt on that. But aside from a few oft-named individuals, it's just not proceeding the same with the rest of the Pens' project. If they think they are going enjoy the same support in the community if they only push the same buttons… well we shall see. It's surprising to me so many Anons are so skeptical of the idea of insisting on better from the billionaires to whom taxpayers gave an additional billion dollars.

  10. Bram Reichbaum

    And quickly, Anon 5:47: in order for anyone to be an “apologist”, someone has to do something requiring an apology, or at least an explanation as to why something that looks bad is not as bad as it seems.

    Doesn't apply here. At best these are policy differences, and to take a glance at the P-G the yinzers are siding with Peduto in large numbers. At worst this is the same old political claptrap: “He hurts other politicians feelings by refusing to be a pal and sell out the City short along with them! Wah!”

  11. Anonymous

    I guess my point was that the policy doesn't seem to apply overall. Are you suggesting that East Liberty and his district were worthy of subsidy because the project owners put in their fair share of funds? Have you really looked at this or are you just talking off the cuff? If you haven't researched it, that would make you more of an apologist and defender because you are acting from emotion, not reason and fact. Who are you talking about when you say sell out the City? #tryingtounderstand

  12. Bram Reichbaum

    Right there the word “transit-oriented” signals one difference to me (it entailed refurbishing a dilapidated East Busway hub and a new multi-modal transit center), and the lack of any organized and vocal community opposition or unmet demands or promises signals another (the pedestrian walkway feature Mosites promised was actually delivered, etc.). But I'll be honest, I haven't researched all aspects of the E. Lib TOD since to my knowledge it hasn't been a controversial topic until now, unless you count its branding as “Eastside”. And from what I hear, people seemed impressed with the levels of public participation (the developers didn't attend community meetings just to say they appeared and to speak soothingly, but actually came back with some substantive alterations based on input.) Maybe you can help me out and fill us in on the nature of organized community resistance to and shortcomings of the E. Lib TOD? These City topics are endless and they all bleed into one another. I can appreciate why people demand a universally-informed blogger, but if I thoroughly researched every new topic everybody thought was relevant before responding to each new personal attack, I'd never leave the computer or sleep lol and I hardly do already.

  13. Anonymous

    I hear ya. I definitely want you to get rest, but sometimes you seem a little blinded in your defense of Peduto. A fair presentation of information and facts would make you more credible and less like a Peduto puppet. I like Peduto's thinking in most cases, but I think that there is some hypocrisy in what he says and what he does. So my point is that sometimes he's for public subsidy and sometimes he's not, and I'm just trying to understand his motivations. Folks call him petty, but I don't want to believe it. Although most of us could give a rat's a$$ about Mayor R, I don't want him to be replaced with a petty politico. Let my City be free from all of this mess so we can really grow! As for your assessment of Eastside, not being controversial — you can't really be serious. Small and local businesses were wiped out, and all you see are middle aged yuppies eating out there now. Ok, that's not completely true, but it is mostly true. Eastside is controversial.

  14. Bram Reichbaum

    I can't tell if you have a difference of opinion with me or if you're just trying to upset me… You say “I hear ya” and “I like you generally,” but it seems like you're just trying to get my goat with words like “puppet” and “apologist”. And like you may be willfully ignoring what seems to me to be a very simple to understand point (you don't need to agree, but you've got to acknowledge it) about how the public deserves public benefit *in exchange for* their subsidies. Eastside did not garner very much objection or resistance as the meaningful community process moved forward; the folks who desired to keep things like Target and Whole Foods out on principle either weren't the ones who lived nearby or weren't the type to actually participate in their government and community. Again, if you're looking for signs of consistency, look at his stance on the North Shore… the Steelers wanted all the land, all the subsidies, and total control without community interference, so at the time the Stadium Authority had to get rid of him. It's just the Penguins bad luck now they can't get rid of him.

    I'll be sharing my perspectives on both Peduto and the Hill soon… I feel it is necessary to back up and get real. People don't want to hear that they think a politician is doing the right thing. But for the record I'm still trying to understand why some are pushing so hard for the billionaires to get EXACTLY what they want. Where is it written in this plan that Hill residents will get any of the jobs or see any if the benefit? The housing is very expensive, the amenities seem geared to event attendees and past promises have never been kept. If we stand together and negotiate more firmly, along the lines that the HDCG and others are suggesting why don't you think we can do better than the Pens opening offer?

  15. Anonymous

    What is the Pens opening offer? Have you previously posted it, please let me know? Who's defending billionaires? I'm really confused about that because you keep saying it. Nothing I've read suggest that *anyone* is saying that the Pens shouldn't re-invest in the community. Maybe you know something I don't. I am really not trying to get your goat! But are you saying that Peduto cares more about the Hill District than Wheatley and/or Lavelle? Because would anyone really believe that? It's just that this stuff is all of the place.

  16. Anonymous

    I guess, that's my point. I don't know. I guess you don't either. And you didn't answer any of my other questions which is part of why this is all so jumbled.
    Thanks anyway.

  17. Bram Reichbaum

    Let me put it this way. When Tonya Payne was in office, Lavelle, Wheatley and their allies basically accused her of being out of touch, getting her head turned around being so close to power, money and influence – too tight with an unconcerned Mayor, too protective of her power on the URA board, going to fundraisers… and no longer being able to maintain a fair perspective on the situation between the Penguins with their legal, banking and construction industry allies and her own political allies on one side, and the ordinary people of the Hill on the other.

    That was probably itself unfair. And to say Lavelle & Wheatley don't care as much about the Hill as Peduto also would be unfair. This is about strategy. But maybe I have that luxury to think that way. I look at what people are saying and what seems to make more sense, not their title or where they come from. Peduto is asking more from the Penguins, who I hope we can all agree have a history of taking everything they can get and then some. It sounds like Lavelle and his allies are saying, “Let's do what the Penguins are asking, and do it quickly.” Seeing what we can accomplish by standing up stronger to the Penguins for a while seems like a better idea to me. I hope this answers more of your questions and concerns.

  18. Nancy

    The difference is that, as all sides keep repeating, “public subsidies require public benefit.” Clearly, a more functional transit hub in East Liberty benefits the public, both those who use the hub facility and those who benefit from the traffic reduction. For the Lower Hill Redevelopment, the concern is that the Penguins will reap all of the benefits of a large amount of government (read: “YOUR taxes”) money, for a project that will be of so little benefit to the neighborhood, and some would say detrimental (building heights, gentrification, negative impacts on existing local businesses) to it. While the Pens were indeed financially supportive of returning a grocery to the Hill, they make a very large amount of money from those properties already, and will continue to do so whether via development or as surface parking. Many of the residents of the neighborhood have expressed concerns that the Pens have been allowed to make promises in order to get concessions (funding), then renege on those promises without recourse to those who might have benefited.
    As Carl Redwood of the Hill Consensus Group says: “The Penguins have received almost three-quarters of a billion dollars in subsidy already on the left side of Centre Avenue,” in reference to Consol Energy Center. “Now, they’re asking for more subsidy, and they are acting like there is something wrong with us asking them to give something to make community benefits available.”

  19. Anonymous

    Yes, and why is it inappropriate? Is not gerrymandering to move borders or define who the community is to either create the illusion of support or opposition?

  20. Bram Reichbaum

    What ever happened to The Ministers? Starting with the Isle of Capri casino bid and all through new arena CBA demands (and finally, negotiations) the faction led by Milliones and Lavelle caucused with neighborhood ministers in what what was usually called “the ministers' group”, later formally the Hill Faith & Justice Alliance. After Lavelle's ascension to Council and the URA board we no longer hear about them, and though I hardly attend most community meetings it seems the spiritual leaders are no longer a presence.


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