The Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority voted Thursday to approve a plan that would turn the Hunt Armory in Shadyside into an ice skating rink.

The board voted to enter into an agreement with developers William Kratsa and Gary Maister for a period of 90 days, to complete the sale of the building. The armory is currently owned by the state but the URA is scheduled to close on the sale of the property in February.

Kratsa Properties, which developed the Bladerunners ice rinks in Harmar and Bethel Park, plans to rename the building the Hunt Armory Ice Center. They’re working with Perkins Eastman architects on the Hunt Armory design.

Courtesy Perkins Eastman architects.
Courtesy Perkins Eastman architects.

URA board member Jim Ferlo cast the lone “no” vote for the plan, which has 17 conditions attached. Among the conditions: a requirement that Kratsa Properties commit to completing the project without tax subsidies other than Federal Historic Rehabilitation tax credits; commission a traffic study; and match the offer price for the property at the appraised value of $1.86 million.

Ferlo said the initial proposal by Kratsa Properties and Cadan Inc. should have been rejected as insufficient and in a statement earlier this week questioned whether the developers had done their due diligence.

“Their concept will have the greatest detrimental impact, is not sustainable based on the financial plan they submitted, and I do not believe the commonwealth will give final approval,” Ferlo wrote in the statement.

Ferlo said Thursday that since there was so much resident support for the ice rink proposal, he would have preferred to open another Request for Proposals process, to see whether there were other possible recreational uses for the property.

He had voiced his support for a plan put forth by Walnut Capital and Massaro Properties to convert the armory into apartments, a plan that residents at Thursday’s meeting spoke out against. A third plan by a team of developers from McKnight Realty and Mosites Co. proposed a business incubator with coworking office space in the building.

Courtesy Perkins Eastman architects

Councilman Dan Gilman, whose district includes Shadyside, wrote a letter to the URA ahead of Thursday’s meeting in support of the ice rink plan, saying it provided a “different and creative opportunity for the building.” As the only indoor rink within city limits, an ice rink at the armory would meet a critical need for skaters and hockey players, Gilman wrote, as well as “create an important engagement opportunity in the middle of the booming East End.”

The 90,000-square-foot armory sits in a densely populated residential area of the city, bordered by Alder, Emerson and Walnut streets, and Carron Way. The surrounding area includes two churches, Sacred Heart Elementary School and a school for the deaf. It’s also within walking distance of businesses on Highland Avenue.

The Armory was home to the 28th Infantry of the Army National Guard until 2013, and the 107th Field Infantry between 1922 and 2008. Other past guests included Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, and musical acts like Duke Ellington in 1945, and Led Zeppelin in 1968.

Kim Lyons

Kim Lyons is an award-winning writer and editor who spends way too much time on Twitter. Her experience includes crime, features and business reporting, and she has a huge crush on Pittsburgh. She was a 2015 Kiplinger Fellow in Public Affairs Journalism at the Ohio State University, and is a founding member of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Online News Association.