Hazelwood’s Almono site has its first a street – well, kind of.
Developers of the environmentally contaminated site, which is planned to become a hub for new housing, young workers and tech businesses, just got the money needed to finish its first infrastructure project. The three foundations that own the site, the Heinz Endowment, Richard King Mellon Foundation and Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation received a $9.5 million loan needed to finish the site’s first completed street.
Part of the road is finished, but isn't completed. It’s expected to be finished by March.
It may not sound like much, but it’s the first step toward progress, said Don Smith, president of the Regional Industrial Development Corporation which is developing the 180-acre site.
Once completed, the 1.5-mile-long street will run alongside a protected bike lane and a walking path. Planned below the surface is a storm water management system the developer said will be vital to making the brownfield site ready for development.
Sustainable infrastructure, though more expensive, will be attractive to startups and young workers, Smith said.
He called the site “ground zero” for new tech companies.
“Particularly when you look at the kinds of technology-oriented companies that we’re seeing come here from all over the world,” he said. “They’re here for the workforce and the talent that’s being produced at the universities. This is all part of creating the environment that those workers are looking for.”
Though some have expressed fears that the Almono development will disenfranchise Hazelwood’s existing population, Sonya Tilghman, executive director of the Hazelwood Initiative, said community groups are prioritizing a connection to the existing neighborhood.
“We really are working with the planners here to make sure that Second Avenue is where the primary retail happens,” she said. “This is not going to be a ‘Waterfront.’ It’s not going to be that place that people will come to and leave without experiencing the rest of the neighborhood. That would be a failure.”
Tilghman said the development plans could help revitalize of the rest of the neighborhood which has been in decline since LTV Steel closed in the ‘90s.
“A lot of progress has been made to reverse that trend and more progress definitely has to happen,” she said. “But what’s planned for the Almono site – particularly the strong connections to the neighborhoods, ample public space and workforce development opportunities – makes the site one of the anchors for the Hazelwood community’s redevelopment.”
Dennis Yablonsky, chairman of the Power of 32 Site Development Fund that distributed the loan, said the Almono site will be Pittsburgh’s last big brownfield.
“Because of our industrial heritage, these brownfields will be important in the development of the region,” he said.
Smith said the site needed, “massive infrastructure investment,” to prepare it for new development generated by the city’s universities and medical research facilities.