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New Hazelwood Development A Missing Piece In Pittsburgh's Comeback

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Big things are on the horizon in Hazelwood, nothing less than a plan to complete a missing piece in Pittsburgh's comeback.

Wildlife has already returned to the vacant land where a coke and steel mill once stood. And soon, we're told, people will too. Lots of them.

"We're going to see hotels, we're going to see office buildings, we're definitely going to see a lot of residential and we're going to see industrial," says Don Smith of RIDC, the man leading the re-development for Almono LP, the group of foundations that bought this site from LTV.

In the year and a half since my last visit here, the biggest change is how level it is. Where once were mounds of fill, there are now open vistas. They're spending $9 million on site prep and preparing to spend $20 million more on roads and utilities.

"And once that's in," says Smith, "the sky's the limit. Site's ready to go."

Nearly everything that once stood in this mighty industrial zone is gone. But one huge structure that remains is known as "Mill-19."

The building is so huge, it's easier to drive through it than walk through it; it's longer than five football fields. They envision food trucks and picnic tables inside, giving life to space for university spinoffs and research partners.

"Not the heavy industry of the days past, but the tech industry that creates a lot of jobs for people at all levels of the education cycle," says Smith.

The optimism isn't just for this reclaimed riverfront. It's also for the neighborhood next to it.

Howard Childs of Hazelwood says it's about time developers focus on what can seem like a forgotten corner of the city.

"They put their money in other places like South Side, East Liberty, around the area," says Childs. "This is the last place."

Jim Richter, of The Hazelwood Initiative, a community development corporation, says while Hazelwood has had its struggles, it stands poised to thrive, to grow along with the new development on all that flat, riverfront land that's 10 minutes from the universities in Oakland and 15 from downtown.

"Hazelwood has a great number of volunteers in the community that are stalwarts," says Richter. "They've been here, they've stuck it out. Now they're ready to engage in that prosperity. Access to the river was denied the residents of Hazelwood as a result of the mill operation and now that they're gone, that just opens up all of that opportunity."

RIDC's Don Smith says they've had some regulatory and funding delays, but a lot of developers have "really significant interest." He says we should expect not one building going up in the next two years, but "three or five."

"We are sort of completing the Hazelwood neighborhood," says Smith. "There's been this chunk missing and we're going to finish that off."

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