The building boom in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania continues unabated, and this could be the year that big projects advance after years of planning and preparation.
It’s not just the revitalized Strip District’s condos and apartments where developers are investing millions of dollars. Hotels and restaurants are pegged for Beechview and master-planned communities are about to take shape in Hazelwood and the Lower Hill, showing that development is now edging into neighborhoods that were largely ignored for many years.
“There is no better place to be a developer right now than in Pittsburgh. If you look at the demographics of the city, we’re not growing but we’re rapidly changing,” says Daniel Berkowitz, managing partner of Atlas Development Co., which has a stake in Beechview’s Broadway Avenue business district.
Here’s just one example: At 178 acres, the Almono project is happening on the largest unredeveloped brownfield property in the city. In 2002, four southwestern Pennsylvania foundations formed a limited partnership with RIDC, a non-profit private development organization, as general partner, and purchased the LTV Steel Hazelwood site.
The partnership was convinced that this remarkable riverfront plateau offered a rare opportunity to set a new standard for urban riverfront property development. The name Almono came from the three Pittsburgh rivers – the Allegheny, Monongahela, and the Ohio. The vision for the property centers around creating economic value, ensuring diversity, high-quality placemaking design, and sustainability.
The site has completed the rezoning process and has been approved for $80 million in tax-increment financing, the largest in the City of Pittsburgh history. A massive site grading process was completed in 2014 and construction on Phase 1 infrastructure started in the Fall of 2015. RIDC is managing the land development and welcomes private developers and individual companies to the site.
The four foundations have so far invested $50 million in cleaning and preparing it for new life. They are currently updating a master plan to create a sustainable riverfront community on the abandoned toxic site.
Construction of Signature Boulevard, a 1.5-mile “complete street” should finish by June of 2017, says Rebecca Flora, project director. Almono is courting private developers for the site, and building secondary roads, a geothermal well and more infrastructure. “We really are turning a corner on the project, so there’s reason to be excited,” says Flora.
The Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC) will start renovating the Mill 19 building, one of two remaining on the site. RIDC will build a multi-story building inside the shell, with labs for R&D, tech and “clean” manufacturing companies. The first phase will cost $30 million; subsequent building could push the total to $90 million.
Rendering of the Mill 19 project + aerial view of Almono site courtesy of RIDC.