This project is an on-going series of time-lapse photographs of several Pittsburgh sites and and neighborhoods that are seeing major development projects after decades of disinvestment. The “Keeping an Eye On ___” series intends to document the changes to these neighborhoods and, as much as photographs of buildings can tell, see whether these changes have an equitable impact or cause more displacement.
The sites in this series are:
The Lower Hill | Uptown | The CAP | Penn Plaza | Hazelwood Green | Hazelwood Flats | Hazelwood Slopes
The Lower Hill
The Lower Hill is a notorious site in Pittsburgh, a scar on the city from the height of Urban Renewal. A vibrant (but poor and predominately Black) neighborhood was demolished in the 1950s so the City could build a cultural mecca centered on a Civic Arena, but most of the site ended up not being built and was left as parking lots.
Now that the arena has been demolished and replaced adjacent to the former location, the Penguins hockey team has the development rights to rebuild the Lower Hill, stitching back together the fabric of the city and reconnecting the remainder of the Hill District neighborhoods with downtown.
Uptown is one of the many neighborhoods in Pittsburgh that experienced decades of neglect. For this neighborhood, the neglect was despite Uptown being sandwiched between Oakland and downtown, two places among the state’s strongest economic regions. Zipping through Uptown from Oakland to downtown on Fifth Avenue or from downtown to Oakland on Forbes Avenue, it is easy to overlook or dismiss the hodgepodge of ruined home foundations turning back to forest; scattered vacant lots, parking lots, and industrial uses; and the intricate architectural details on abandoned and renovated townhomes.
This is now changing as new developments, including an expansion to the hospital and the expectation of a new bus rapid transit system, are coming to the neighborhood.
The CAP is a project in Pittsburgh “fixing the mistakes” of Urban Renewal. The Crosstown Blvd was built in the 1960s creating a freeway in a canyon dividing the Lower Hill neighborhood from downtown. The Lower Hill neighborhood, formerly predominantly poor and black, had already been demolished by this point to make way for the Civic Arena and other cultural amenities that were never built.
The CAP is a park on a bridge built over the Crosstown Blvd and is intended to reconnect downtown and the Lower Hill, while the Lower Hill is being rebuilt by the Penguins hockey team. Construction began in June 2019 and was completed in November 2021.
The former Penn Plaza Apartments was a group of large of apartments buildings that served a low-income population. After years of neglecting these apartments, the owner gave 200 residents notice to vacate within 90 days in the summer of 2015. By then, the surrounding neighborhood of East Liberty was a hopping place to live with low vacancy rates and the average rent much higher than what these residents could afford.
After months of negotiation with the City and the community, the developer was given the needed land and zone change while the affordable housing crisis in Pittsburgh only got worse and the former residents were forced to uproot their lives.
Hazelwood is a neighborhood about 4 miles down the Monongahela River from downtown Pittsburgh. It is currently experiencing significant change. Between Hazelwood’s main street (2nd Avenue) and the Monongahela River is a 178-acre site of the former Jones and Laughlin Steel Company. Most of the structures from the mill were demolished, leaving a large brownfield. In 2002, the site was purchased for redevelopment by Almono LP (at the time, an entity made up of four Pittsburgh foundations). After years of planning and a rebranding of the site as Hazelwood Green, a series of public streets and the first building opened for use in 2019. Construction is underway for more buildings and a public plaza.
Hazelwood is a neighborhood about 4 miles down the Monongahela River from downtown Pittsburgh. It is currently experiencing significant change, at least in the Hazelwood Green portion. The area that I’m designating as Hazelwood Flats, is a small predominantly residential enclave. On the north-south axis, it is sandwiched between the former site of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Mill (now Hazelwood Green) and a mixed commercial/industrial area that includes the city’s recycling processing center. On the east-west axis, it is sandwiched between the river and the railroad tracks.
Given the extent of disinvestment in the Hazelwood in recent decades, this enclave is relatively intact with far fewer vacant lots than in the remainder of the neighborhood. The housing stock ranges from boarded up to maintained with vibrant yards. How will this area change with the on-going development of the adjacent Hazelwood Green?
Hazelwood is a neighborhood about 4 miles down the Monongahela River from downtown Pittsburgh. It is currently experiencing significant change, at least in the Hazelwood Green portion. The area that I’m designating as Hazelwood Slope is everything outside Hazelwood Green and the small residential enclave between the tracks and the river that I call Hazelwood Flats. The Hazelwood Slope contains the neighborhood’s commercial corridor, cultural and historical sites, and the majority of the neighborhoods’ residences.