Hazelwood Green, Pittsburgh’s largest development site, has a new lead developer
Last week, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey announced that he was putting an end to a controversial plan to build a shuttle link between Oakland and Hazelwood. However, he told a public meeting that his administration was committed to making investments to “improve residents’ daily lives” with transit improvements along Second Avenue and Bates Street.
After some 20 years of planning and preparation, the 178-acre Hazelwood Green site has a master developer. The Almono Limited Partnership — the Richard King Mellon Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation — announced on Friday that Tishman Speyer will work to turn the former Jones & Laughlin mill “into a global center for tomorrow’s economy.”
That economy will hinge on science, engineering, life sciences, and entrepreneurship. In 2019 Carnegie Mellon University opened the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute and the Manufacturing Futures Institute, and will soon build a Robotics Innovation Center with Tishman Speyer’s help. The University of Pittsburgh is building a biomanufacturing facility at Hazelwood Green called Pitt BioForge. The Richard King Mellon Foundation supported the latter two with large grants.
“Tishman Speyer is an ideal partner for the next phase of this important project,” said foundation director Sam Reiman in a release. “They are uniquely well suited to help us maximize the potential of this generational opportunity.”
The company has a track record of building and managing large, complex projects in partnership with communities, he said. They redeveloped and now oversee Rockefeller Center in New York, and are working on a 28-acre mixed-use project called Mission Rock in the Bay Area; in Beijing, Tishman-Speyer redeveloped another former steelmaking site called Chang-An Steel Mill, according to the release.
Hazelwood Green is primed to “inspire innovation while also improving the planet and bringing new investment to historically under-served communities,” said Jeffrey Mandel, Tishman Speyer’s senior managing director. He said the company will work with the foundations, Pittsburgh leadership, and the community to deliver “world-class public amenities, affordable and market-rate housing, creative spaces and services, and a wide variety of employment opportunities.”
Mayor Ed Gainey said in a release that he and his administration look forward to the partnership, and to achieving the shared goal of rebuilding a “part of the neighborhood while lifting up the surrounding community and creating opportunities for existing residents.”
Hazelwood Green has long been conceived as a place to push the boundaries of what it means to redevelop. The preliminary land development plan took years to put together, and describes the site as “a living laboratory – a platform for experimentation that advances Pittsburgh’s evolving innovation economy for a full spectrum of workers.”
When the mill closed, the land lay fallow for a long time, but various options were proposed for its future: big box stores, a coke battery, and a new impoundment lot, remembered Grant Oliphant, president of The Heinz Endowments. He described those proposals as a “remarkable abuse and underachievement” of the large site’s potential.
“The foundations bought this site precisely because we wanted to keep bad things from happening on it,” he said. Almono LP bought the land in 2002 for $10 million and has since poured millions more into cleaning it, putting in infrastructure, and investing in the neighborhood of Hazelwood.
“What we do on Hazelwood Green has to be a vision for sharing prosperity more broadly and more sustainably than we’ve ever seen in development,” Oliphant said. “Not just in Pittsburgh, but around the country.”
Exactly how Tishman Speyer, Pitt, CMU and future tenants will accomplish that remains to be seen. A lot of tech-based development has been done badly, “and has been exclusive rather than inclusive,” Oliphant acknowledged. “Which is why we’ve gone to such enormous pains to make this plan, and this development site, be different.”
Two major neighborhood organizations, Center for Life and the Hazelwood Initiative, welcomed Tishman Speyer to Hazelwood.
“We look forward to collaborating with them on a Hazelwood Green that is fully integrated with the existing community and a model for how development can put people first,” Sonya Tilghman, who leads HI, said in a release. The community’s neighborhood plan, adopted by the City of Pittsburgh in 2019 also helps to shape development proposals.
Access to Hazelwood Green and Hazelwood will be critical, and could even help to connect residents of the Mon Valley to the activity there and in Oakland, Oliphant said.