Rendering of the Hazelwood Green advanced manufacturing hub. Credit: MSR Design, Ten X Ten and R3A

It was worth the wait.

On Wednesday morning, leaders from Pittsburgh’s government, business and academic communities gathered with hundreds of guests at Hazelwood Green to celebrate the grand opening of Mill 19, a stunning research and development hub poised to remake the manufacturing sector.

Mill 19 features a modern industrial building inside the bones of the old industrial mill. Photo by Tracy Certo.

Built entirely within the skeleton of the former Jones and Laughlin steel mill, the 90,000-square-foot project is the first of three buildings that will eventually anchor the 178-acre industrial park on the Monongahela River.

Teams from CMU’s Manufacturing Futures Initiative, the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute and the economic development nonprofit Catalyst Connection will occupy the three-story building along with a rotating group of outside partners. The work at Mill 19 will focus on A.I., automation, robotics and other innovations related to manufacturing.

The building is owned by the Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC). The Richard King Mellon Foundation provided a gift of $20 million for construction costs.

The walkway outside the new building at Mill 19. Photo by Tracy Certo.

Tenants ARM and CMU set up their offices during the summer, while Catalyst Connection will move in this fall. Architecture firms MSR Design, Ten X Ten and R3A collaborated on the modern industrial design, which had visitors swooning at the unveiling.

Speakers at the grand opening included Mayor Bill Peduto, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, CMU President Farnam Jahanian, Congressman Mike Doyle and Catalyst Connection CEO Petra Mitchell.

In an interview with NEXTpittsburgh before the event, Professor Gary Fedder, faculty director of the Manufacturing Futures Initiative, explained that the opportunities for collaboration at Mill 19 are similar to those at the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) in Lawrenceville.

But whereas the NREC is focused mainly on collaborations between professional engineers and outside clients, Mill 19 will have a more academic bent.

“We wanted to make this different — a special place where we can attract more students,” Fedder explained.

Rather than just receiving funds for research, students will work alongside professional engineers from the government and the private sector. Ideally, Fedder hopes to see dozens of interdisciplinary teams working in the building at any one time.

“Those teams and those work cells will start talking to each other, and that’s going to create new innovations that we haven’t even thought of,” he said.

Several of the featured speakers noted the significance of locating cutting-edge research within the bones of a bygone industry. The location is “deeply symbolic of our region’s transformation from one generation of manufacturing to the next,” said Rep. Doyle.

In his remarks, Mayor Peduto said the project will produce a wide array of economic benefits for the region, especially for the surrounding Hazelwood neighborhood.

Hundreds gathered for the opening celebration of Mill 19 on September 4. Photo by Tracy Certo.

“This development will benefit both sides of Second Avenue,” said the Mayor.

Together, The Heinz Endowments, Benedum Foundation and Richard King Mellon Foundation purchased the land that would become Hazelwood Green in 2003, promising to rehabilitate the site for a 21st-century economy.

Hazelwood Green’s second building, known simply as Phase B, is under construction and expected to open in 2020. Redevelopment of the third building, a storage space known as the Roundhouse, has yet to begin.

As Jahanian noted, Wednesday’s event was in many respects a culmination of a collective civic dream 15 years in the making.

“When they purchased the land,” said Jahanian, “This is what they pictured.”

Check out this video, which was shown at today’s opening event.

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