Throughout the first half of the 20th century Pittsburgh was known for its industrial innovation. This often came at a cost in terms of destruction our environment. In 1958, as part of the 200th Anniversary of Pittsburgh, ground was broken for this icon of modern design and engineering. It was a symbol of our recovery with its innovative movable domed roof showing off the clean air and skyline.
The Arena was designed as part of a visionary but misguided “Cultural Acropolis” for the Symphony akin to New York’s Lincoln Center, edged by then-trendy modern high rise residential towers offering clean new housing with the promise of light, space and views. Of course, there is another side of that story, the failure of urban renewal that still haunts residents of the Hill today. (See Chris Moore’s Wiley Avenue Days).
Keys to our future competitiveness will be about conservation, local job creation, and rebuilding green. So let’s imagine that the stainless steel-clad Igloo could become unique and a destination for visitors to learn of our innovative ways. It could become our answer to Chicago’s Millennium Park or New York's High Line.
In order to visualize this transformation, imagine that we would remove most of the interior seating “bowl” and all of the non-structural stuff of the old arena. Now, stripped to its structural elegance, we would have the ability to build new uses within it (imagine a hermit crab!) and still have room for the coolest park around with a roof that opens in summer and closes in winter!
Imagine this circular park with lush landscape in summer and the recycled Pen’s rink in winter. It could have a small amphitheater next to the rink for jazz, Cirque du Soleil, Squonk Opera—all complementing the business for the new Arena. Imagine a hip “destination hotel,” retail, restaurants and a surrounding residential neighborhood with views every bit as dramatic as Mt. Washington. A key feature would be a reconnected Wiley Avenue connecting the City to the Hill once again.
This would not be an isolated place like it is today, but a truly “civic” space fully integrated with surrounding new development as a NEW symbol befitting Pittsburgh’s rebirth as a place of innovation.
go to www.reusetheigloo.org to learn more!
1. GREEN JOBS & ECONOMIC INNOVATION: It’s a unique economic development opportunity that creates quality local businesses and green jobs. The greenest building is the one that already exists!
2. A UNIQUE CULTURAL AND RECREATIONAL VENUE: It can be a destination as a unique cultural and recreational sports venue that demonstrates Pittsburgh's innovative past present and FUTURE!
4. A NATIONAL CLASS DESTINATION: It creates a social and cultural destination to bring together visitors and residents in a way that this building/public open space can uniquely do to teach the history of urban renewal and cross boundaries of race, class and neighborhood.
5. TIME TO EXPLORE THIS IDEA: There is no need to rush demolition while the hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funding necessary for infrastructure and parking structures are obtained from Congress and other public source. The building can be transformed NOW using repurposed demolition funds, creating uses for amateur sports, festivals and small business pavilions that complement and COMPLIMENT the new arena and other opportunities.
6. ADDED NEW DEVELOPMENT: (not displacement): The 28 acres of the Lower Hill have the capacity to create all of the proposed mix of housing, retail and office densities (along with parking for 2900 cars) that the Penguins and the Hill have proposed. The Arena's footprint is only 14% of the 28 acres, and would satisfy the zoning requirement for public open space.
7. NEW PUBLIC DOLLARS: The reuse of the Igloo does NOT take public dollars away from other projects in the Hill. We can demonstrate that over $20 million in savings can be achieved by repurposing demolition (over $5million) and grading (over $15 million) costs. In fact, it attracts development that would otherwise not be attracted to the site.
I am writing you to SUPPORT the nomination of the Civic Arena and tell the Penguins and the SEA to invite developers to make proposals over the next year as the master planning process is underway. We need innovative thinking, not retread suburban style development!