A Pittsburgh property developer is turning over 660 acres once slated to host a racetrack and casino to the city to largely preserve as green space, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Most of the wooded, stream-crossed site will instead become Pittsburgh’s biggest park, pending a vote on the deal Thursday by the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority.
The land is owned by Pittsburgh Development Group II, a company whose principal owner, Charles Betters, paid $15 million for the property in 2003. Kevin Acklin, chairman of the redevelopment body and chief of staff to Mayor Bill Peduto, estimated that the property is now worth “tens of millions of dollars.”
Mr. Betters’ plan for a major residential, commercial, and gaming development fell through when the city’s sole casino license was awarded to another bidder in 2006. The property has remained vacant and over the years became popular with hikers and bikers. The gift deal includes what Mr. Acklin called a “nominal” $5 million payment by the city to obtain full control of the site, including mineral rights, meaning it can prevent oil and gas drilling.