The former home of Mama Rene’s Restaurant, on the 4800 block of Second Avenue in Hazelwood, is on the site of a proposed apartment development. (Photo by Kaycee Orwig/PublicSource)
24 years after steel left, a trio of pending decisions could say a lot about Hazelwood’s future.
by Rich Lord, PublicSource
From the hulk of Mama Rene’s Restaurant to the freshly furnished tech spaces of Hazelwood Green to the woods encroaching on Sylvan Street, change laps at every corner of this neighborhood overlooking the Monongahela River.
Sure, there’s been talk of development in Hazelwood for 20 years, since foundations bought the 178-acre former mill site that dominates the riverfront. But in the coming weeks and months, that talk could solidify into key decisions by the Urban Redevelopment Authority board [URA], the City Planning Commission and Pittsburgh City Council that would set Hazelwood’s course for decades.
- The commission and council are weighing new rules for development of Hazelwood Green that would pave the way for construction but also allow acres of parking.
- A grassroots coalition is seeking URA support to build a grocery store.
- A local developer is negotiating to buy hillside land from the URA for construction of duplexes.
“It’s just a domino effect that I think we have been waiting for, for a while,” said city Councilman Corey O’Connor, who represents the neighborhood. His goal, he said, is to make sure “that if you live there now, you’re going to be able to live there decades from now.”
As dominoes wobble, though, passionate debate about the neighborhood’s future has intensified. Longtime advocates, relative newcomers and developers are trying to cooperate, but bracing for potential clashes. Here’s a tour of Pittsburgh’s emerging development hotspot.
Let’s start in the middle
Mama Rene’s Restaurant was named for Saundra Cole-McKamey’s grandmother, and her family and friends operated the soul food spot into the 1990s.
“It was like a centerpiece where people would come in and tell whatever was on their mind,” recounted Cole-McKamey, now executive director of the workforce development group People Of Origin Rightfully Loved And Wanted, or POORLAW. For anyone who wanted to eat or just chew the fat, Mama Rene’s “was just the place to be down here.”
Saundra Cole-McKamey, executive director of the workforce development group People Of Origin Rightfully Loved And Wanted, or POORLAW, and a member of GH-CARED, participates in a conversation on the southwestern side of the 4800 block of Second Avenue in Hazelwood. (Photo by Kaycee Orwig/PublicSource)
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