Three years after the opening of a football stadium and a ballpark, the strategy to revitalize Pittsburghs North Shore is beginning to bear fruit. When complete, the $240 million of construction, planned and in progress, will add 1.2 million sq ft of office and retail space and 4,200 permanent jobs, says Stephen Leeper, executive director of the Sports and Exhibition Authority, owner of the two stadiums.
Five years ago, the Stadium Authority created a 25-acre development zone, defined by the ballpark and stadium, the Allegheny River and an elevated highway. The authority owned the new facilities predecessor, the multipurpose Three Rivers Stadium, torn down in 2001.
The sports venues, officials insist, are crucial to North Shore revitalization and the citys image. When Mayor Tom Murphy took office in 1994, he understood "we were going to lose [baseballs] Pirates and might lose [footballs] Steelers," says Murphy spokesman Craig Kwiecinski. "He cut the best deal [on sports construction] in the country," he says.
The facilities were built with a combination of state and local funds and team contributions. Steelers ownership paid for $113 million of the $256-million Heinz Field. The Pirates contributed $44 million to the $262-million PNC Park. Both teams have 30-year leases.
Accessibility and amenities are the linchpins of the development strategy. The facilities are within walking distance of downtown, across the Allegheny. Before years end, construction may begin on a $390-million, 1.6-mile extension to Pittsburghs light rail, linking Heinz Field and PNC Park to the city center. A $47-million promenade, completed in 2001, has been built along the rivers shore. "The walking trail and water features are phenomenal. Its fun to be there. Its a fun place to work," says Barry Ford, president of the local branch of Continental Real Estate.
Fords firm is developing a 10-building complex on the Sports Authority-owned site. The first, a $30-million headquarters for utility Equitable Gas, is under construction and slated for completion at the end of the year. Del Monte, which recently bought Pittsburgh-based H.J. Heinz Co., will occupy a second $30-million building. Plans also call for a 300-unit apartment complex that will include retail space and restaurants. And Kratsa Properties, Pittsburgh, is building a 198-room, $15-million Marriott hotel on a small SEA-owned site, directly to the north of PNC Park.
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The development has its detractors. So far, the major tenants are companies that already have a presence in the city, points out Jake Haulk, president of Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, Pittsburgh. "There are not really any [new] jobs here," he says.
But those involved in the development effort say the new buildings are an enticement to stay in Pittsburgh. "Del Monte didnt have to stay here [after acquisition of Heinz]," says Ford. "And weve solidified Equitable in the region for a very long time," he adds, vigorously defending the sports village model.
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