Pittsburgh Project In a Pickle

During a public hearing between the Pittsburgh city council and residents regarding a hotel and entertainment complex development deal, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl tried to persuade the developer and the city’s Stadium Authority to resolve a dispute over an option agreement soon, saying a lawsuit would only stall the project.

"Folks need to sit down and figure out a way to get this done and figure out a way to move this forward," Ravenstahl told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "If this process becomes one that’s litigated, everybody loses. … You’re not going to see anything else built between the stadiums for a year, if not two or three years."

The development in question would be built between Heinz Field and PNC Park stadiums and include a 178-room Hyatt hotel and a 35,000-square-foot entertainment complex, the Post-Gazette reported.

Continental Real Estate Cos., which shares the plans in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Steelers football team and Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, said it’s ready to go with the hotel and close to being ready with plans for the venue, according to local station KDKA-TV.

Some members of the Stadium Authority, which owns the land, said it’s too late as Continental moved too slowly and the agreement giving exclusive rights to the developer has expired.

"The termination of the option agreement with the Steelers and the Pirates became effective in July 2007," said Councilman Bill Peduto, who along with the Northside United organization want the land to be renegotiated or put up for open bid, according to KDKA.

Peduto, a former Stadium Authority board member, estimated the land’s value at $8 million to $10 million and said a new option agreement must include a "fair value" for the land as negotiated by the agency and a community benefits agreement.

Continental Chairman Frank Kass said there’s no need to renegotiate deals he believes are still in effect and said if the authority refuses to sell the two land parcels for the price set by the agreement – $1.3 million – Continental will have to take the issue to court.

"Well, we’re going to sue them," Kass told the Post-Gazette. "We haven’t done anything in violation of a contract and, furthermore, they haven’t notified us that we were in violation."

Kass said he’s willing to negotiate a new option agreement – if the prices for the hotel and entertainment land parcels and future Continental developments do not change.

Stadium Authority Executive Director Mary Conturo wouldn’t comment on whether the exclusive rights development had expired because she said to answer "tips our negotiating hand." She did tell council that Kass was wrong about the $1.3 million figure as no price had been set.

A court document implied the price for each parcel would be around $1 million, according to the Post-Gazette.