mill 19 feature
Mill 19 allows visitors to see-through history.

The Almono site in Hazelwood is Pittsburgh’s biggest development, riverfront or otherwise, totaling 178 acres. And now redevelopment of the hotly anticipated but long dormant site is kicking off with Mill 19—a future home to new tech start-ups and light manufacturing companies. At the south end, a public plaza is planned with a stage for outdoor performances and a giant wall for screening movies.

Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC) owns the Almono property and just received City Planning Commission approval for the reuse of Mill 19, one of the three remaining structures still standing on the site of the former Hazelwood Coke Works. The ultimate goal for the entire site is to create a space along the riverfront for people to live, work and play.

Mill 19 context“We asked ourselves what we could do to preserve this iconic site,” says Tim White, senior vice president of development at RIDC. The project provides interpretation of a place that holds a nostalgia for many Pittsburghers, notes White, whose grandfather worked in the building during its heyday.

The steel skeleton of Mill 19 will be preserved and will encompass a set of new energy efficient buildings. Visitors, employees, and residents of the site alike can wander in and around Mill 19 and travel down a walkway that will extend throughout the quarter-mile long building. The old roof will be removed and a new canopy covered in solar panels will be added to generate a portion of the building’s energy.

Mill 19 interior
Plans for the inside of Mill 19. Courtesy MSR Design.

“The building was never designed to be weatherproof,” says Tom Meyer with Minneapolis-based MSR Design. “The way to recycle it was not to clad it with full padding but to put a new building inside the skeleton. The new building has rigorous energy efficiency standards and so having a smaller volume is practical.”

In this case, practical is also completely unique. Meyer’s firm is responsible for several other key industrial reuse projects around the country including the historic Mill City Museum in Minneapolis and Urban Outfitters’ Corporate Campus in Philadelphia, but Meyer is unaware of any others like Mill 19. This is the firm’s first project in the Pittsburgh region.

“Having a building within a skeleton creates a layered effect and a space between the new and old that is public space,” says Meyer. “In that space, the landscape can grow into the skeleton and bits from the new building can project out.”

Redevelopment of the building could eventually create up to 300,000 square feet of new space targeted toward tech economy businesses coming out of the area’s colleges and universities, but the first phase will see the development of 65,000 square feet at a cost of $20 million.

“I keep joking that I think this building is going to be the new lead-in to Monday night football,” says White. “You have the legacy of steel but then you have the new drivers of the regional economy with tech inside. This will be a great hallmark building for the site and also for the region.”

RIDC is working on securing financing for the project from state and private funding sources. If all goes as anticipated, construction work could begin in spring of next year. The rest of the design team is comprised of Renaissance 3 Architects, Ten x Ten, D.I.R.T. Studio, and atelier ten.

Maya Haptas has an M.A. in Historic Preservation Planning from Cornell University and is a freelance writer covering various topics from architecture and urban design to wellness and skateboarding. She is currently the assistant editor of Bigfoot Skateboarding Magazine.