Monday, August 16, 2010


Reprinted from the "Pittsburgh Post Gazette"

Friday, August 13, 2010
By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Proponents of saving the Civic Arena have won an ally.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is recommending a delay in the 48-year-old arena's demolition to give Reuse the Igloo and others interested in saving it more time to develop alternative plans.

In a letter Thursday to the city-Allegheny County Sports and Exhibition Authority, Jean Cutler, Director of the Bureau for Historic Preservation, said a delay would allow the SEA to more "fully engage in assisting Arena preservation advocates in creating a redevelopment plan based in the context of adaptive reuse of the arena site."

Ms. Cutler said the PHMC believes the arena is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places and "embodies a significant and distinctive type of classic mid-20th century civic architecture."

"In our opinion, adaptive reuse of the arena would solidify Pittsburgh's growing reputation as a city that recognizes the value of pursuing development opportunities that are economically, environmentally, and culturally sustainable," she wrote.

"Reuse the Igloo", led by architect Rob Pfaffmann, had no immediate comment on the letter.
SEA Executive Director Mary Conturo could not be reached for comment.

The SEA is expected to recommend the demolition of the domed structure, formerly known as Mellon Arena, as part of the Penguins' plan to redevelop 28 acres across the street from the new Consol Energy Center...

Finally!!! In a blizzard of nonsense, a voice of reason rings out from the frozen tundra. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum commission is recommending a delay in the demolition of one of the city's most iconic buildings, the Civic Arena.

ABOVE: "Red at night, a Pittsburghers delight".

Quick. Think of a building that is more representative of Pittsburgh than the Civic Arena? You can't, because there simply is none...except maybe for the Cathedral of Learning.

I think it is a disgrace that the Mayor, yes, also the Penguins, and the various other monied interests in this town would rush to tear down this most distinctive building in the city so as to further line their own nests.

Luke Ravenstahl in particular should shoulder most of this blame. What an incredibly minimal amount of foresight he has shown in siding with the wrecking ball plan. Can you imagine for a minute a new combination retail development combined with either a housing complex or hotel facility in the existing Civic Arena building? The resulting creation would allow additional downtown Pittsburgh residency (something that all of the businesses downtown need) plus it would create more tax base for the city. Even better, at the same time we would still he able to to have a beautiful Pittsburgh skyline adorned by that iconic dome...a symbol of Pittsburgh if there ever was one...parked next door to the beautiful new Consol Energy Center!

ABOVE: The Civic Arena from space. "Helping to give our astronauts a point of reference during space shuttle voyages."

We, as Pittsburghers can't allow our minimalist-thinking Mayor to allow this building to fall. That would be a complete travesty. I was in Scranton for the first time this past weekend, on the campus of Scranton University. Just adjacent to the university is one of the most glorious buildings you'll ever see, the Lackawanna Hotel (now a part of the Radisson chain).

ABOVE: We have this thing for exposed beams here in the Burgh. After all, they were made here, why not show 'em off? Seriously, somebody wants to tear this down? Get real!!!!

I had a chance  to talk to the hotel manager while my good friend, our own photographer Gary Gayda, was busy snapping pictures. I complemented him on the grandeur of his hotel and he said, "Can you imagine that in the 1980's they almost tore this down?" I was dumbfounded then thought, "Was Luke Ravenstahl your mayor by any chance?"

We are going to bring you photos of this fabulous hotel next week when "Pittsburgh:Thru the Lens of Gary Gayda" makes its' triumphant return. "But why show these pictures of a hotel in Scranton," you ask? Simple. the Hotel Lackawanna is now an iconic structure in Scranton. Those people figured it out. Maybe there'll be hope for Pittsburgh's Civic Arena lovers too.

Here's an idea Mr. Mayor: Let's just put those wrecking balls away and bring out some of those famous brains we're supposed to have around here instead. Imagine the high praise that the rest of the country will have for our creative re-use of such a beautiful symbol of Pittsburgh.

Oh, by the way, the next time someone says that, "That property is too valuable" ask them why we never tore down the Blockhouse at the Point. I'd say that's valuable real estate there too!