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Inside Almono: New Development Could Begin Next Week, Anchored By CMU

Margaret J. Krauss
90.5 WESA
Demolition crews will soon take the siding and roof off the old Mill 19 building, and then construct three new buildings under the superstructure.

After years of negotiations, road and utility work, and site preparation, redevelopment could begin on the 178-acre Almono site as early as next week.

On Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf toured the Almono site, which sits along the Monongahela River and is Pittsburgh's largest remaining brownfield. The tour's highlight was the old Mill 19 building, which extends for nearly one-third of a mile—a vast building on a vast piece of land. Just outside the building is the newly finished Signature Boulevard, a complete street with room for cars, cyclists, and pedestrians. 

“This is ground zero for the [Almono] development,” said Don Smith, president of the Regional Industrial Development Corporation, or RIDC. “This is where the first building’s going to happen.”

Almono is slated to become a multi-use development, and is expected to revitalize the nearby neighborhood of Hazelwood, attract investment, and stimulate job growth. Rehabilitating the Mill Building [as it's now called] is the first step, said Smith.

“We really view this as a catalyst to bring other development to the site,” said Smith. “That’s why it’s so important to get this first one done and get those marquis names here to bring the other players.”

The $120 million project will rip the siding and roof off the 1,500-foot building, add solar panels to its roof, and in three phases construct three new buildings under its skeleton, each of which will have an anchor tenant.

Carnegie Mellon University has partnered with the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing, or ARM, Institute; they would like to be co-anchor tenants in the first building. They are "bullish" about their chances, said Gary Fedder, CEO of the ARM Institute. 

“We’ve made great progress. The negotiations have been going on for many months now,” said Fedder, noting that CMU entities have conducted research at the site for years. Smith demurred, saying only that they're in final negotiations, and expect to have an announcement soon. 

Technology companies, workforce providers, and other partners are expected to be the Mill Building’s main occupants, but the public will retain access to Almono, said Smith, citing it as one of the site’s guiding principles, protected by covenants on the land, regardless of owner.

“It’s wanting to do something that’s great for the neighborhood of Hazelwood, great for the people of Pittsburgh, good the environment,” Smith said. “But also reestablishes this site as an economic hub that supports not just the neighborhood but really the whole region.”

So while RIDC may eventually seek restaurants for the Mill Building, it’s not their first priority, Smith told Wolf.

“We don’t want to take business away from the Hazelwood business district,” he said. “What we’d like to see is that that main street in Hazelwood serves as a lot of the restaurant and service activities.”

Contractors could begin prepping the site for partial demolition and remediation as early as next week. RIDC hopes to break ground in spring of 2019. 

Uber had planned to lease the site's roundhouse building but has since dropped out, said Smith. 

Margaret J. Krauss is WESA’s senior reporter. She covers development and transportation, and has produced award-winning podcasts on housing, work, and Pittsburgh’s lesser-known history. Before joining the newsroom full time, she covered the challenges facing Pennsylvania cities as a statewide reporter, and spent another life as an assistant editor for National Geographic Kids Magazine in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at mkrauss@wesa.fm.
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