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Hazelwood Residents Want To See Development, But Have A Plan To Guide It

Margaret J. Krauss
90.5 WESA
Some 200 residents attended the very first planning meeting in Oct. 2017. The process continued to draw interest and engagement from community members.

On Tuesday, Pittsburgh Planning Commission approved the Greater Hazelwood Neighborhood Plan. Residents are optimistic that with the plan in place, they can make sure future development furthers the community's goals.

“We, the residents, the people, fully support this plan,” Michael Wilson of Hazelwood told the commission. He said the most important aspect is to protect the neighborhoods’ most vulnerable residents, such as elderly and low-income people, from increasing development. “We know that you can’t stop development, you can’t stop the market. The best you can do is guide it.”

The “Our Hands, Our Plan” document outlines ambitious goals for the neighborhoods of Hazelwood and Glen Hazel. In collaboration with the Department of City Planning, the process was spearheaded by the Greater Hazelwood Community Collaborative, whichis made up of community groups as well as state and local officials.

Over the two-year planning process, community members made it clear they want to attract investment and grow their neighborhoods without displacing existing residents. A “North Star” statement envisions a thriving, prosperous place that is welcoming to everyone, where growth is led by residents themselves. That vision informed goals such as increasing housing security, preparing people for job opportunities and creating a plan to enhance the neighborhood’s commercial corridor, Second Avenue.

It will be a challenge to bring the blueprint of the plan to fruition, said Rev. June Jeffries, a member of the plan’s leadership team. But residents are ready.

“The reality of this plan will only be accomplished with the collaboration of our hands, firmly pressed against the plow,” she said. “We didn’t come this far to drop the ball now.”

For more than a century, Hazelwood was home to a steelworks that employed thousands of people. Shut down in 1997, the site takes up nearly one-fifth of the neighborhood and is now known as Hazelwood Green. The prospect of development on that 178-acre plot helped to spur the community planning process. Another central tenet of the community plan is to ensure Hazelwood Green is fully integrated with the rest of the neighborhood.   

The planning process was both led and driven by the community, and that’s how development should happen too, said Sonya Tilghman, executive director for Hazelwood Initiative.

“We want to be very welcoming to developers, but we want them to already know what kinds of things are our priorities,” she said. “And they can get that through the plan.”   

The commission’s approval of the plan won applause and cheers from the audience. It now becomes part of Pittsburgh’s comprehensive plan, where it will be used to help guide and review future investments and developments in Greater Hazelwood.

*This story was updated at 9:37 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 7 to reflect that the Greater Hazelwood Community does not need to go to City Council for approval.