Hazelwood in line to be Pittsburgh’s next big thing

SUMMER MARKET VENDORS—Ray Ray’s BBQ is a taste of what is available during the summer market on Second Avenue. Owner Jere Woods her father Andre Woods, worker Ernest Smith and aunt Tannya Harris hanging out on a Friday afternoon.
SUMMER MARKET VENDORS—Ray Ray’s BBQ is a taste of what is available during the summer market on Second Avenue. Owner Jere Woods her father Andre Woods, worker Ernest Smith and aunt Tannya Harris hanging out on a Friday afternoon.

“Hazelwood is turning around. Besides the Almono site there is a lot going on within the community,” the area’s city council representative Corey O’Connor said. Pointing out one of his concerns.
“It is important that the community is prepared for the developments occurring in and scheduled for the community,” Mentioning the Spray Park, the library and the grocery store as completed projects he identified developments in progress as the Almono site, the French Bakery and the Community Kitchen. He said nearly a $90 million investments are expected with the purchasing of the old library, anticipated new construction, rehabilitation of current structures and the Almono site. Almono letters represents the Allegheny, Monongahela and  Ohio Rivers.
Pleased to be the executive director of the Hazelwood Initiative at this point of its existence, Sonya Tilghman is excited to work with the residents, the board and other officials and organizations to help expand it from just a community based organization to an economic and real estate development group.
Executive director since January of this year Tilghman is well acquainted with the neighborhood and prepared to assist HI in providing effective leadership and facilitation to create a healthy community through community planning, business redevelopment, affordable housing development, homeowner reinvestment, and youth programming. According to the 2010 US census records the area has an estimated population of 5,000 which is ethnically and economically mixed.
Through partnerships and collaborations projects taking place in the Greater Hazelwood area of Hazelwood, Glenwood, Glen Hazel, and Riverside which the HI serves includes strengthening the Second Avenue business district, developing the 178 acre Hazelwood Coke Works site and affordable housing developments.
Though the HI is not directly involved in the vacant brownfield land development, the former Hazelwood Coke Works site is significant to the development of the area. A non-profit group called the ALMONO Partnership, spearheaded by the Heinz Endowments consisting of the Benedum, Richard King Mellon and the McCune foundations and managed by the Regional Industrial Development Corporation is proposing 1,200 housing units and more than 2 million square feet of office and research and development space. According to The Homepage, a publication produced by the HI, RIDC has plans to redevelop the Mill 19 building located in the middle of the site targeting technology companies and to relocate their headquarters on the site. Also Tilghman pointed out that 42 acres is targeted to be the Uber test tract.
One major development HI is involved in is the Gladstone Middle School property on Hazelwood Avenue. Their plan is to purchase the $250,000 structure and possibly redevelop it into housing, an incubator or workforce development space. The venture she says is a partnership between them, the Center of Life and the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group.
Projects are underway along Second Avenue, 4944 and 5017 working in conjunction with Action Housing as well as the LaGourmandne Bakery and the Community Kitchen developments. Tilghman also mentioned that rehab for resale, affordable housing and discount home repair projects and programs are underway. “Our goal is to provide affordable housing and help maintain the upkeep of existing housing.
Realizing that rebuilding a community is not just about bricks and mortar, this weekend the community and HI are working with the national organization KaBOOM, Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children and the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative to build a KaBOOM playground at 5113 Lytle Street.
Like the KaBOOM project, the Neighborhood Investment Fund 2016 Pilot Program is about community. Tilghman explained that the purpose of the NIF is to provide support to community organizations and small businesses seeking to positively impact the Greater Hazelwood communities of Hazelwood, Glen Hazel and Hays. The goal of the fund, she explained is to increase community cohesiveness and engagement as well as to improve economic and social equality of residents and entrepreneurs in Greater Hazelwood.
Until October and weather permitting residents, workers and the thousands of motorists traveling Second Avenue have the opportunity to take advantage of the partnership between HI and the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh by patronizing Chaces Hot Dog, BBQ and Catering or Ray Ray’s BBQ.
“I’ve been a part of the Summer Market for the past three years says Hazelwood native Pete Henderson owner of Chaces Hot Dog BBQ and Catering. “It has been a great experience.” Ray Ray’s BBQ is operated by Jere Woods and her family.
Established in 1994 as a nonprofit organization and existing as a membership group, HIs mission is to be a community-driven organization, providing a shared stronger voice for Greater Hazelwood by gathering community input to build a sense of hope, harmony and promise, and by supporting human, spiritual and community development.
Tilghman, a Pittsburgher for the last 20 years has been involved in community economic development most of her career. Prior to working at the HI she worked as an independent consultant and classifies herself as having a well-developed and broad skill set in underwriting and financing affordable housing and urban commercial development, including origination of grants and loans, as well as management of grants, loans, and CRA compliance.
Hazelwood is named after the hazelnut trees, which once flourished along the Monongahela river and John Wood one of the first settlers of the area and a politician. According to Wikipedia he built his ‘Hazel Hill’ estate in 1784. The house, a historical landmark is located at 4604 Monongahela Street and is recorded as the second oldest stone building in Pittsburgh.
Building on its past and pleased about the progress HI is making but realizing that they still have a way to go, Tilghman is enthusiastic about the areas’ future. The community and its leadership feel Hazelwood is on the move, and is the next neighborhood in Pittsburgh to receive a significant investment of energy, capital, and innovation.
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