Elizabeth Pharmacy at 5041 Second Ave. has served Hazelwood residents since 1910.

For residents of Pittsburgh’s Hazelwood neighborhood, September has been a month of firsts.

On Sept. 4, local leaders celebrated the grand opening of Mill 19, a research hub and anchor tenant for the long-simmering Hazelwood Green development project.

On the 16th, in the same location, residents and stakeholders got a look at the community’s first long-term development plan. The organizers describe the Greater Hazelwood Neighborhood Plan as a wide-ranging document that focuses on “ways to strengthen and improve the community while proactively preparing for future growth and change.”

The plan, which is open for public comment until the end of the month, was drafted by experts from the Greater Hazelwood Community Collaborative (GHCC), a collection of community groups that includes ACTION-Housing, Center of Life and the Hazelwood Initiative.

In an interview with NEXTpittsburgh, Hazelwood Initiative Executive Director Sonya Tilghman discussed the plan’s vision for the changing neighborhood and how Hazelwood Green fits into the picture.

“There’s no doubt that the development on the Hazelwood Green site has sparked more rapid interest than would have come to this community otherwise,” says Tilghman.

The neighborhood plan is partly about “ensuring that the development that happens down there doesn’t happen on an island,” she explains, and “that there are also benefits to the greater Hazelwood community.”

The proposal has four major focus areas: community, mobility, development and infrastructure. Based on more than a year of public forums in the Hazelwood area, the plan recommends specific policy changes, including sidewalk repairs and more access to public transit.

There are also broader recommendations, such as creating task forces to studying zoning laws and new approaches to affordable housing.

“This is and has been for a long time, a very diverse community. We want to continue to be that diverse community,” says Tilghman. “We want to remain a place that is affordable for people who have lived here for years.”

Many of the recommendations in the report are separate from the activity at Hazelwood Green but the site does play a key role in the future of the neighborhood.

One example: The plan recommends adding more pedestrian connections between Hazelwood Green and the wider neighborhood, as well as limiting the amount of retail available within the development. The reason? “So Second Avenue is the place they come for coffee or your basic stuff,” says Tilghman.

While much of the plan focuses on the way land will be used, Tilghman emphasizes that “the plan is specifically and intentionally not a real estate development plan. It’s really about the people in the Hazelwood community.”

Check out the full proposal here.

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