Sunday, May 02, 2010

Rob wrote on Facebook: Some general points in response to all the media attention on the future of the Civic Arena:

I think it is foolish for a renter to exit his or her apartment and demand that the landlord tear down the building just vacated. That would make no sense. Likewise, it makes no sense to listen to the Pens when it comes to the Civic Arena.

We should save the Civic Arena and NOT tear it down.

We win by addition. 1 + 1 = 2. We churn when we have 1 + 1 - 1 = 1. To grow the region, grow its assets. Be authentic.

Rob posted:
1. It will cost a minimum of $10 million to tear it down and prepare the immediate site. Your state and federal taxpayer dollars at work...Not the Pens. The Pens then buy the property for a couple of million and put in parking spaces that produce $200,000 a year in income. Guess how many years it might stay as parking? And who pays for the structured parking to come later? You guessed it, WE DO! Just like Southside Works and Bakery Square, TIFs, state/federal funding will be used. That is not bad if we are open and honest about HOW WELL it is done.

2. We the citizens of Western PA bought the building 50 years ago. WE own it. And in fact Edgar Kaufman, Henry Hillman and others kicked in millions in 1960 dollars. The Hill has a right to lead a planning process, but the issue of the arena is buried by political rhetoric from public officials. We are asking for a fair comparison; thus Reuse the Igloo has commissioned a study from an economic planner OUTSIDE of Pittsburgh.

3. Most old buildings are bought for below market value in order to incent reuse. See History Center, Pennsylvanian and Armstrong Cork. THEN a 20% historic tax credit is available for private rehab (see ARMSTRONG CORK). This must be done by the private sector and can put the land back on the tax rolls.

4. We have proposed a 5 year moratorium on demolition in order to explore and verify financial and market feasibility of our ideas. All we have to do is REPURPOSE part of the demo money to demolish the old seating bowl, to prepare it for use as an INCOME producing property ON the tax roles!

5. We are looking for a developer and it is hard when the "fix " is in. As an experienced Architect, I know that harder projects have been undertaken in this city when the naysayers said it cant be done: See Washington's Landing, Station Square. Since the Pens control the developments rights it is difficult if not impossible to develop a national RFP like has been done for the Garden Theater.

6. Post War modern Structures may be ugly to some, but people felt that same way in the early twentieth Century about Victorian design. No in the 1960's or even 70's one would be believe we took old buildings downtown and turned them into lofts. The Arena’s architectural value is well established, See our website to see the possibilities to create something of lasting beauty (while your at it take a look at how the new arena thumbs its nose that street and the Hill). It creates a far larger visual wall than the Igloo, which can be made “transparent” by opening it most of the time and creating a public pedestrian greenway right along the path of the old Wiley Avenue.

7. Historic Preservation is an economic development tool. Google went into the big old Nabisco Bakery in part because they know that they are good for business and employees love cool spaces and are more productive. They did the same in Brooklyn New York.

8. Think of the Arena with its moveable roof as the coolest community park, hotel, restaurants shops and recreational facilities.. Portland Oregon is doing just that with its old arena, after its mayor and the Trailblazers said they wanted it torn down for reasons similar to our public officials.

9. Want to see innovative reuse in action? Go to Montreal's Old Forum, the “Fenway of Hockey” and see its reuse as an inner city mall. Even better, go to NYC to see the Highline Project, a once derelict elevated freight line through the heart of Manhattans west side. A W hotel has been built OVER it because it so cool and attracting visitors and creating local jobs. WE can do the same with the IGLOO! The idea is NOT reuse at as a competing venue to the new arena; by removing the seating bowl and creating open space the arena can have immediate value and demonstrate the potential for full redevelopment.

10. And last but NOT LEAST: We need to have an honest dialogue about symbols and meaning in architecture: A building does not have to be a symbol of failure. It was the process and common view of the times, not the building that caused the failure. Lets not reinvent history but rather understand it and learn from it. All of us need to read Root Shock and Death & Life of Cities. Buildings as symbols and couriers of meaning can change over time and by reusing for anew positive use, it we change a symbolic meaning from failure to success. We believe that repurposing the igloo can change its meaning and open up memories, create connections and dialogue. The failures of Urban Renewal that should NOT be forgotten by future generations. How many Pens fans or casual visitors to the new arena will learn that history if we tear it down? Europe has learned this lesson. We have not. Many of us grew up watching many urban renewal failures here and around the country, driven by conflicting intentions (good and bad).

Lets open up a dialogue and reconcile not use shallow talking points and misinformation. The City Live event on May 17th will get beyond the political talking points. City Live has invited three historians to respond to and discuss the history and idea of reuse from three points of view: Social, Cultural, Architectural. May 17th at the New Hazlett Theater 6:30pm; Come join the dialogue!

No comments: