Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood Slope: Sep. 2021

Overview

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.

What’s New

After my September 2020 check-in on Hazelwood, it seemed that changes in Hazelwood were happening at a slower pace than the other sites I’m keeping an eye on. So I decided to switch from a 6-month interval to a 12-month interval between visits. A few months ago, I saw construction vehicles and other signs of activity while driving down Second Ave through Hazelwood. I thought perhaps I was missing out on some activity. However, when I walked through the neighborhood this month, I couldn’t find any signs of recent demolition or recent construction.

An exciting project that is projected to start soon is the conversion of the former Gladstone School to affordable housing. There were subtle signs of site prep when I walked by this month. Construction is expected to start before the end of the year with an anticipated completion date in 2023.

The Photos

Second Ave
Hazelwood Ave & Other Sites

Hazelwood in the News

Funding from Bridgeway Capital, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, and the Pennsylvania Housing Financing Agency has been awarded for affordable housing projects in Hazelwood. Center of Life, a local non-profit, also received a major donation to support its mission of helping underserved K-12 students and their families in the neighborhood.

Inspired by the popular Friday fish fries in Pittsburgh, Hazelwood’s Community Kitchen launched a Friday BBQ series this year.


Locating Hazelwood Slope


Previous posts in series

Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood (across the tracks): Sept. 2020

Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood (across the tracks): Apr. 2020

Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood: Introduction


Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood Flats: Aug. 2021

Overview

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.

Only two streets cross the railroad tracks to connect this enclave with Second Ave, the neighborhood’s main street and a main artery for the city. A small road with car-swallowing potholes connects the enclave directly to Hazelwood Green bypassing the black wrapped fence surrounding Uber’s test track.

While Uber has a veiled presence in the neighborhood and robots are being tested nearby, the question is what will happen to the residents and the neighborhood. Through this photographic series, I will periodically return to the neighborhood to document the physical changes to the Hazelwood Flats to capture a part of the answer to that question as it unfolds. This is in conjunction with two related series documenting the changes to Hazelwood Green and the slope portion of Hazelwood on the other side of the railroad tracks.

What’s New

Since I last visited Hazelwood Flats, work has begun on the renovation of the former Hazelwood Brewery (image 5a). The proposed new use of this site is a hub for craft brewers. I noticed a vacant lot on Blair Street (image 9a) that may have been newly vacant or was just more noticeable as a staging area for the water main replacement in the neighborhood (similar to the water main replacement in Uptown this summer). As I’m becoming more familiar with the neighborhood, I’m seeing more details – such as noticing the rowhouses tucked along the Ways (image 15) similar to other worker housing neighborhoods in Pittsburgh like Lawrenceville and Garfield.

The Photos


Locating Hazelwood Flats

Previous posts in series

Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood: Sept. 2020

Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood: May 2020

Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood: Introduction

Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood Green: Jul. 2021

Overview

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.

During the planning and preparation stages, a question arose as to the effects of this redevelopment on the surrounding neighborhood. Hazelwood is one of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods that has experienced high vacancy rates and subsequent demolition in its residential and business districts. While the building stock of the neighborhood has experienced a long downward trend, the community of people is strong. Only time will tell if the redevelopment of Hazelwood Green will connect with this community or if Hazelwood Green will become and isolated spot of prosperity for others.

Through three photographic series, Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood Green, Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood Flats, and Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood Slope, I will periodically document the physical changes to the former steel mill site and to the surrounding neighborhood.

What’s New

Since the last time I photographed Hazelwood Green, the most significant changes are the near completion of the public plaza (photo 24a) and the Roundhouse (photo 8), a former mill building converted to office space. Construction is also underway for the final building in Mill 19 (photos 29, 31, and 33), the remaining steel frame of one of the former mill buildings.

The Photos

Hazelwood Green in the News

The May 2021 opening of the public plaza was covered by NextPittsburgh (May 6, 2021), Pittsburgh Business Times (May 7, 20201), and KDKA (May 8, 2021).

Almono LP led a process to develop a riverfront master plan for the site. The Post-Gazette and Tribune Review announced the proposal to seek input on the plan in September 2020. The Pennsylvania Environment Council updated their September 2020 announcement of the planning process with a link to the report on the fall planning process. WPXI and Pittsburgh Business Times reported on the release of the riverfront master plan in April 2021.

The Roundhouse renovation’s press is skewed toward the stories on the construction from October 2020 (WPXI, Tribune Review, NextPittsburgh, Post-Gazette) and the stories on the start-up challenge that coincided with OneValley’s February 2021 announcement that they would be opening an innovation center at the Roundhouse (NextPittsburgh, technical.ly, OneValley, Innovate PGH, PR Newswire). Technical.ly’s article is the only one I found on the opening of OneValley’s innovation center this month.

In other news, a grant was awarded to abate asbestos and lead in Mill 19 (PA Environment Digest Blog, October 13, 2020), a contested shuttle proposal between Hazelwood and Oakland is moving forward again (WESA, October 20, 2020), a green manufacturing plant may come to the site (Post-Gazette, May 6, 2021), Michael Keaton, aka Batman, visited Hazelwood Green in May 2021 (Pittsburgh Business Times, May 20, 2021), artists will be designing bus stops for Hazelwood Green (evolveEA, May 21, 2021), Carnegie Mellon University announced a proposal for a new robotics innovation center while the community works to make sure development supports residents (technical.ly, June 23, 2021), and Tishman Speyer may become a private development investing partner with Almono LP (Pittsburgh Business Times, July 9, 2021)

Locating Hazelwood Green


Previous posts in series

Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood Green: Aug 2020

Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood Green: Mar. 2020

Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood: Introduction

The Story of the Spires – Bethlehem

While exploring Bethlehem’s bridges, my eye was caught by the numerous spires rising above the surrounding buildings of South Bethlehem. Instead of resting upon returning to the hotel, I felt compelled to go back out and take a survey of religious buildings within walking distance. Due to the topography, those on the slopes of South Bethlehem were the easiest to spot, but I also located some in Bethlehem’s historic district and in West Bethlehem. I found twenty-three buildings in all.

As with my experience in Erie, I was surprised that the vast majority of these buildings were still open for use as religious worship. Bethlehem Steel Company was the main employer in Bethlehem for most of the 20th Century. Like steel mills elsewhere in the northeast, its business declined. In the early 2000s, the company went bankrupt. This makes it seem like the town should have experienced the classic rise and decline of other Rust Belt Cities.

One of the typical landmarks of this change is an abundance of vacant or adaptively reused religious buildings. In Pittsburgh, I have found over 50 former churches and synagogues now being used for secular purposes or in the process of being converted to secular purposes. Many more are vacant and boarded. Wilkinsburg, a town adjacent to Pittsburgh, has so many closed churches that its zoning code incorporates guidelines for converting church buildings to secular uses. Homestead, PA, the former home to US Steel and the site of the famous Homestead Steel Strike, has several shuttered churches. Bethlehem’s religious buildings did not fit this pattern.

In searching for an answer to what made Bethlehem different than other steel towns, I realized that the business districts and residential areas I passed through were mostly intact. There were few vacant buildings and no vacant and abandoned grass lots. This suggested that Bethlehem did not experience the same decline as the other former steel towns that I have explored. The historical population data corroborated this hypothesis. Bethlehem and Erie experienced their peak populations in 1960; Pittsburgh and Wilkinsburg in 1950; and Homestead in 1920. In 2010, the cumulative population loss from each city’s peak was:

CityPopulation Loss
Bethlehem1%
Erie26%
Pittsburgh55%
Wilkinsburg49%
Homestead85%

The stable population of Bethlehem explains why so many religious institutions are still operating. It doesn’t explain why the people stayed when the jobs left.

I picked up Jeffrey A Parks’s “Stronger than Steel: Forging a Rust Belt Renaissance” to look for clues to what made Bethlehem different from other Rust Belt cities. For the most part, it seems to have pursued the same actions and initiatives as elsewhere. Bethlehem’s leaders even hired consultants from Pittsburgh in the 1950s to learn how to do Urban Renewal. Other similarities include the creation of a redevelopment authority, the use of eminent domain to force people out of their homes for commercial development, the building of a highway through town, and the change of traffic patterns to prioritize the regional over the local.

The one thing mentioned in Parks’s book that was different from other cities was the school district. In the 1960s, the Bethlehem School District expanded to incorporate two rural townships. These townships later became wealthy suburbs that combined with the population of Bethlehem to create a racially and economically diverse district. Parks’s implication seemed to be that the result was a school district with better funding and resources than its neighbors. Perhaps, as a result, families did not have the conversation about moving to the suburbs for better schools as their children approached school age.

A decent inner-city school district may reduce the flight to the suburbs. It also may attract new residents. Yet, I wonder if it is enough to prevent hemorrhaging population loss as a region’s major employer cuts jobs in the decades before it closes.

Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood (across the tracks): Sept. 2020

Hazelwood is a neighborhood divided in two by railroad tracks. On one side of the tracks are Hazelwood Green, a residential enclave, and some industrial and commercial uses. This is what is across the tracks:

Second Ave

Hazelwood Ave

Other Sites


Hazelwood in the News:

New Businesses Revitalizing Second Ave (Next Pittsburgh, November 21, 2019)

URA Picks Community Builders for Affordable Housing Development on Second Ave (Pittsburgh Business Times, January 15, 2020)

Study Pushes Multi-modal Transit Improvements to Hazelwood’s 2nd Avenue (Post-Gazette, February 10, 2020)

Report Says Traditional Buses Better for Hazelwood than Autonomous Shuttles (City Paper, April 21, 2020)

Restaurants Reopen – Diners Return (Post-Gazette, June 28, 2020)

66 New Homes Proposed (Pittsburgh Business Times, September 10, 2020)


Previous posts in series:

Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood (across the tracks): Apr. 2020

Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood: Introduction


Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood: Sept. 2020

Hazelwood is a neighborhood divided in two by railroad tracks. This is what is on the same side of the railroad tracks as Hazelwood Green, but on the other side of the black fence surrounding the Uber test track:


Hazelwood in the news:

The Progress Fund Proposes Turning a Former Brewery into a Craft Brewpub Hub (Pittsburgh Business Times, July 31, 2020)


Previous posts in series:

Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood: May 2020

Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood: Introduction


Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood Green: Aug. 2020

Hazelwood Green in the News:

Roundhouse Renovation Next For Hazelwood Green (Next Pittsburgh, January 26, 2020)

Locomotive Roundhouse to Host Co-working Space (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 28, 2020)

Tenant Landed for Roundhouse (Pittsburgh Business Times, February 25, 2020)

From Blight to Tech Node? (CoStar, June 3, 2020)

Largest Solar Installation (Next Pittsburgh, June 29, 2020)

Hazelwood Green – Mill 19 Building A Named 2020 Best Project (ENR MidAtlantic, July 29, 2020)

Largest Solar Installation Completed (Solar Power World, August 13, 2020)

Drive-In Arts Festival at Hazelwood Green (Twitter, August 13, 2020)


Previous posts in series:

Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood Green: Mar. 2020

Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood: Introduction

Keeping an Eye on Hazelwood: May 2020

Hazelwood is a neighborhood divided in two by railroad tracks. On one side of the tracks are Hazelwood Green, a residential enclave, and some industrial and commercial uses. Here is a snapshot of the residential enclave and surrounding uses:

Hazelwood in the News:

Post-Gazette Article on proposed new road between Hazelwood and Oakland April 10, 2020