One Hill Coalition Achieves Historic Milestone

May 18, 2008 -- Pittsburgh UNITED

By Tom Hoffman, Pittsburgh UNITED Executive Director

On May 10th the One Hill CBA Coalition reached a tentative agreement for a “first-ever” Community Benefits Agreement in Pittsburgh.  The tentative agreement outlines the ways that the development of the new Penguins hockey arena and 28 acres of land in the lower Hill District will benefit Hill District residents.  This agreement comes after nearly seven months of negotiations with the Penguins, the Sports and Exhibition Authority (SEA), the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the City of Pittsburgh, and Allegheny County.

The Hill District is the largest African American neighborhood in Pittsburgh.  When the original Civic Arena was built in the lower Hill in the 60’s, thousands of homes and businesses were razed.  The Hill was cut off from downtown and suffered severe economic decline as a result.

The breakthrough came a few weeks ago when the Penguins hockey team returned to the table and agreed that jobs to develop the land around the new arena and the permanent jobs on site would be family sustaining jobs and the wages would meet the standards set by workers in key industries.  These include jobs in construction, janitorial, hospitality and other service industries.

In its year-long campaign to win this Community Benefits Agreement, the One Hill CBA Coalition and regional supporters worked hard to make this aspiration a reality.  Several of the significant events in the campaign were:

  • Community prioritization of the major planks of the CBA proposal.
  • A highly publicized tour of the Hill where 30 regional groups, political leaders and the media took a bus tour of the Hill district to visit sites represented in the Blueprint.
  • Testimony in front of City and County Council in support of Community Impact legislation and to request support from both bodies around community-driven CBAs as a way to ensure that the arena development gives back to the Hill and that other developments do the same.

This agreement incorporates a significant portion of the Blueprint for a Livable Hill encompassing nearly all of the priorities set out by the Community, including:

  • The Hill District will have control over major decisions in the development of a Master Plan to Build a Livable Community in the Hill.  The City and County will fund the Master Plan.
  • Jobs created in the 28 acre development where the current arena stands will be family sustaining jobs with health benefits.
  • One Hill and Hill House will establish a referral center to connect Hill District residents with family sustaining jobs modeled after the highly successful BIG STEP program in Milwaukee.
  • Only qualified Hill District residents will have access to hiring opportunities during the first week of job openings in the development.
  • Through a state run tax credit Neighborhood Partnership Program, funding support will be provided for community and economic development, education and youth services, preservation and green spaces and social services in the Hill community.
  • Two million dollars available for establishment of grocery store or other economic anchor in the Hill district.
  • City and County will assist the Pittsburgh YMCA to develop and sustain a multi-purpose center for youth, families and seniors.
  • The Arena will prepare a LEED Certification Plan, and the City and County will commit to strict enforcement of diesel fuel emission laws during the construction of the arena.

This historic first step begins the process of ensuring that major economic development returns concrete benefits to the communities where it is located.  We plan to make this a precedent set by the Hill District’s CBA that paves the way for not only more CBAs in Pittsburgh but also challenges the established way of doing development.  By encouraging greater community involvement, democracy and transparency of government, Pittsburgh UNITED seeks to find a different and better way of ensuring that good development comes to our region and truly improves the quality of life of the hard-working citizens who live here.

Written by Tom Hoffman, Executive Director and Natalie Greene, Researcher, of Pittsburgh UNITED.