City planning and urban development experts from all over the country are in Pittsburgh this week, taking a look at the proposed development plan for the Almono site in Hazelwood as part of the Daniel Rose Center for Public Leadership fellowship program.
The program, a joint project of the National League of Cities and Urban Land Institute, identifies four U.S. cities each year that are facing land use challenges related to major development projects. This year’s cities are Pittsburgh, Omaha, Boston, and Seattle.
Jess Zimbabwe, executive director of the Daniel Rose Center, said eight experts, mostly from the private sector, will act as fresh pairs of eyes on the redevelopment plan for the 178-acre site.
“We’re not here getting paid by anybody, everybody’s volunteering their time through these two non-profit organizations, the National League of Cities and the Urban Land Institute, to give unbiased advice to the city on how they should implement the recommendations they’re already getting from these various teams,” Zimbabwe said.
Pittsburgh’s four fellows include Mayor Bill Peduto, City Planning Director Ray Gastil, Urban Redevelopment Authority manager of community and diversity affairs Karen Abrams and Neighborhood Allies president Presley Gillespie. Each fellow will have the opportunity to travel to another city to participate in the week-long consultation process.
Gastil already traveled to Omaha to take a look at one of their major development projects, and now one fellow each from Omaha, Boston, and Seattle will come to Pittsburgh to join the eight development and planning experts.
Gastil and Zimbabwe said the group will focus on “next steps” for the Almono project.
“What are the best opportunities in terms of phasing? Which areas on the site are going to be the ones that are going to attract to most interest?” Gastil said. “Do you want to start with the historic properties which remain on the site? Do you want to start adjacent to the (Hazelwood) neighborhood?”
The cohort will spend this week visiting the site and meeting with stakeholders. A presentation of recommendations is scheduled for Thursday morning in City Council chambers.
“What they’re presenting will be their initial observations and their preliminary recommendations for the Pittsburgh Rose fellows – the Mayor and those three others – to start working on in terms of advancing the strategy for the site,” Zimbabwe said.
The effort to transform the former industrial site began in 2002, just five years after the steel mill shut its doors. A consortium of local foundations purchased the parcel and gave it the name “Almono,” which is a mashup of the names of Pittsburgh’s three rivers: the Allegheny, the Monongahela, and the Ohio.
The preliminary development plan was delivered to the city in May 2013, and includes housing, commercial and retail space, green space, river access, recreational opportunities, and green infrastructure.
“I think there’s a type of community that is very attractive to a lot of people, in which there’s a relatively close relationship between jobs and housing, there’s an incredible recreational opportunity along the riverfront, there’s interesting open spaces, there’s interesting historic structures,” Gastil said.
A community meeting on the Almono development plan is scheduled for Tuesday, February 23rd at 6:00pm at 120 Flowers Ave. in Hazelwood.