Pittsburgh’s Hazelwood neighborhood was a vital and economically diverse community well into the 1980s. Its northern section, near an LTV coke plant, held working-class homes, while its southern part was largely middle class. The main street, Second Avenue, bustled with shops, banks, and bars.
The 1998 closing of the coke plant—Pittsburgh’s last operating mill—devastated Hazelwood. Businesses closed, vacant properties multiplied, and remaining families struggled. Despite hard times, residents wanted to avoid placing another smoky industrial neighbor on the former mill site.
In 2002 four local foundations, with the Regional Industrial Development Corp. as managing partner, formed a partnership called “Almono” to purchase the property. They’ve begun a community-based process to transform it into a vibrant, mixed-use development seamlessly linked with Hazelwood.
- The name Almono comes from the three Pittsburgh rivers—the Allegheny, Monongahela, and the Ohio.
- Almono is Pittsburgh’s last significant remaining brownfield site.
- The site encompasses 178 acres total, with 98 acres of developable land and one-and-a-half miles of continuous riverfront shoreline.
- The site once held the world’s largest collection of beehive coke ovens.
- The site’s barge docks include multiple mooring pylons with capacity for 250 barges.
- 800,000 cubic yards of fill excavated from the light rail extension under the Allegheny River was used to help remediate the site.
- The Almono project has received the largest award of tax increment financing in Pittsburgh history.
- The completed project could see more than two million square feet of office and research space and more than 2,000 units of housing.
- Attract private investment and create quality jobs.
- Attract uses that generate new tax revenues.
- Spur reinvestment in the area and region.
- Serve needs of both existing and new residents.
- Complement the communities and groups that will benefit from the development.
- Provide river access for everyone.
- Create a unified vision that can grow and evolve.
- Apply best practices in sustainable design.
- Balance local and regional transportation needs in the short and the long term.
Challenges and Opportunities
- CSX Corporation controls a heavy rail line that runs through the site, and two barge docks are active.
- Hazelwood residents must go to other neighborhoods for most employment and basic services.
- Second Avenue is the only main access route and sees frequent traffic jams.
- PennDOT has committed to working on key intersections like Second Avenue at Bates Street.
- Sites close to Downtown and the universities are in demand in Pittsburgh. Almono’s connectivity to these areas will be essential.
- The project has been approved for $80 million in tax-increment financing.
- A massive, $9 million rough site-grading process was completed in 2014.
- Phase 1 infrastructure is planned to begin in 2015, including utilities, roads, and off-site improvements. Building construction could also start in 2015.
- The Hazelwood Center opened in 2014, offering a library and social services in a renovated church built to passive house standards.
- Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh is rehabbing homes throughout the Hazelwood community.
- A new Propel charter school has opened in Hazelwood.