A view of Mill 19 and the area where the Plaza will be built at Hazelwood Green. Photography by Annie O’Neill, Courtesy of Almono LLC.

Hazelwood Green, the 178-acre site that houses an economic development program several generations in the making, just signed a new tenant.

Catalyst Connection, a Pittsburgh-based workforce development organization dedicated to helping small manufacturers, will move its headquarters to the Hazelwood Green site in October of 2019. The group will occupy 8300 square feet on the third floor of Mill 19.

“Our move is also a strategic opportunity to begin the formation of a Manufacturing Hub in Pittsburgh, as recommended by the recently released Brookings Report as a critical need to support manufacturing in our region,” says Petra Mitchell, president and CEO.

That report, Capturing the next economy: Pittsburgh’s rise as a global innovation city, highlighted Pittsburgh’s research institutions, high-skilled workers, and technology-intense advanced manufacturing, but noted that these resources have not translated into proportional economic growth.

Rebecca Flora, the Authorized Agent for site developer Almono LLC, says Catalyst’s decision is “further testimony to the important role this site is taking in growing and evolving our regional manufacturing base to be a key player in the innovation economy.”

The nonprofit’s announcement comes on the heels of several notable developments in the long-gestating project, which is looking to become a hub for advanced research and manufacturing within the underserved south Pittsburgh neighborhood.

Two high-profile tenants, Carnegie Mellon University’s Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute (ARM) and the Manufacturing Futures Initiative, began construction earlier this year and expect to be open in early 2019.  Catalyst will “co-locate” with these high-tech workspaces in redeveloped pieces of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Mill.

“This move will accelerate our opportunity to introduce our clients to the new technologies and research personnel at CMU and ARM,” says Mitchell.

More tenants are likely to sign up for a spot in Hazelwood Green over the course of the next year as the initial phases of the project begin to take shape.

In late September, the Pittsburgh Planning Commission approved preliminary guidelines for the development of commercial and residential spaces. In early October, the project managers officially put out calls for local designers to submit proposals for Phase 1 of the development, which refers to the 27 acres surrounding the ARM Institute.

An action plan on maintaining affordability in the surrounding neighborhood, made in collaboration with local community groups, will be coming before the end of the year.

Just last week, design plans for the Green’s first outdoor public space were approved by the Pittsburgh Planning Commission. The designers, Seattle-based landscape architecture firm Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN), will collaborate on the plaza’s construction with local design firms including Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Klavon Design Associates, KU Resources and Santangelo & Lindsay.

Hazelwood Green began more than 15 years ago when The Heinz Endowments, Benedum Foundation and Richard King Mellon Foundation combined forces to purchase the 178-acre riverfront tract, promising to rehabilitate the space “with the vision for a sustainable development that would reflect Pittsburgh’s future.”

As Flora explained, the nonprofit structure gives them the flexibility to think in terms of long-term sustainability of the project rather than short-term financial gains.

Eventually, organizers hope the riverfront strip will be a sprawling combination of mixed-income housing and advanced research that will serve as a critical economic engine for the surrounding Hazelwood community.

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.