Photos courtesy of Ron Baraff, Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area.

The monolithic steel-era ruins of the Carrie Furnace have long been a popular backdrop for film and video — from the Christian Bale crime thriller “Out of the Furnace” to “American Ninja Warrior” to Wiz Khalifa’s music videos. Now, the massive site along the Monongahela River is getting its own movie studio.

“This will be the first purpose-built sound stage facility in the region,” says Dawn Keezer, director the Pittsburgh Film Office. “It’s really needed by our clients. We had 11 projects shoot in 2021. We’ll have 10 projects shoot this year. They’ll be bringing with it about $200 million in new money to the economy, and we’re talking about 10,000 jobs.”

While funding and the final design for the studio are pending, Carrie Furnace is getting its first new building, a 60,000-square-foot tech/flex space designed to attract the kinds of companies that are fueling Pittsburgh’s economy. Officials from the city, state and neighborhoods helped break ground for the project on Thursday morning.

Carrie Furnace. Photo courtesy of the RIDC.

“This Carrie Furnace site was the economic epicenter of this region and created family-sustaining jobs for so many,” says Don Smith, president of the Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC) which is developing the site.

“And we all know about the difficulties that happened with the deindustrialization of the United States; it certainly hit Pittsburgh harder than most. But thanks to the efforts of so many folks, there’s been a steady stream of focus and investment in bringing this site back to life.”

The building and infrastructure will cost $20 million coming from a combination of public and private grants and loans and equity provided by RIDC.

The Carrie Furnace property has 55 acres of developable land, with 11 more acres available west of the site for future development.

Rivers of Steel will continue to preserve the remaining Carrie Furnace steel mill as a national historic site, showcasing the region’s industrial heritage.

Groundbreaking event at the Carrie Furnace. Photo by Mike Machosky.

“When my grandfather immigrated from Ireland and landed in Swissvale, he got a job at Carrie Furnace,” says Congressman Mike Doyle. “And he worked there for 40 years. And his son, Mike Doyle, worked a few miles down at the Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock for 30 years. And his son worked two summers at J&L (Steel) and said, ‘I don’t want to be a steelworker.’”

Doyle notes that he helped secure $3 million in the House’s 2023 spending bill for the film production facility.

“All of us who grew up here are proud of the legacy our fathers and grandfathers left us,” says Doyle. “They did hard, dangerous work here at Carrie Furnace, and they did it to support their families … that’s why it’s been a labor of love for me to work to preserve Carrie Furnace.”

Michael Machosky

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife,...