At the beginning of 2020, Pittsburgh was poised for a construction boom.
Then the pandemic hit.
Now, as developers pick up the pieces and construction resumes in some places, we thought it would be a good time to check in on the biggest projects in the region to see where things stand or don’t.
Lower Hill. Status: beginning in early 2021
This ocean of asphalt, this dead sea of parking lots since the days of the Civic Arena, may finally be on its way to a higher purpose and a better use. After years of difficult negotiations between the neighborhood, the Penguins and city government, what could amount to a billion dollars in development is planned for this 28-acre spot between Downtown and the Hill District. This includes a 26-story office tower for the headquarters of First National Bank, with ground-floor retail, planned for the lower end of the arena site, nearest Downtown. Three hundred apartments are planned for the first phase, with eventually up to 1,420 on the site. Live Nation will open a 90,000-square-foot, 6,600-seat music venue, and Punch Bowl Social (which is closed throughout the country due to the pandemic) is planned for a later phase. According to the URA, the Hill District will receive $11 million in investments to fund housing and economic development in the neighborhood.
The development was originally planned to start this summer. “It’s certainly moving forward,” says Boris Kaplan, vice president of development with Buccini/Pollin Group. “The redevelopment of the 28 acres across from PPG Paints Arena seems closer to a groundbreaking than it’s ever been. It’s going to take one final big push from business, community and public sector leaders to get the first phase projects out of the ground. That’s not going to happen in 2020; it’ll happen in early 2021.”
Nearby, I-579 is currently getting “capped” with a three-acre, park-like bridge, creating the kind of pedestrian-friendly connection between the Hill and Downtown that has been absent since the construction of the Civic Arena. It will feature walking and biking paths, work by local artists and rain gardens. The $30 million project has stayed on schedule during the pandemic. The Lower Hill, at long last, may slowly be on its way to becoming a neighborhood again.
Hazelwood Green, Hazelwood. Status: under construction
After an eight-week delay due to COVID-19, Hazelwood Green is moving forward. The biggest solar installation in the country is underway, on the roof of Mill 19, a massive remnant of the LTV Steel complex that used to dominate this site. Now, after more than a decade of painstaking soil remediation — this land was quite polluted — and planning, Hazelwood Green is coming to life. Mill 19 is being repurposed as high-tech office and workshop space, and home to the Carnegie Mellon University-led Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute and Manufacturing Futures Initiative.
Hazelwood Green now has Pittsburgh’s first Complete Streets roadway — designed for bicyclists, pedestrians, motorists and transit users alike — that’s open to the public. Eventually, a 1.9-mile pedestrian and bike trail, a riverfront park, a public plaza and millions of square feet of housing and office space will fill this 178-acre site. The Plaza is almost complete, and the two-acre space will open in November to the public. It includes lush green lawns and 16,000 square feet of granite, with the slabs forming slanted sheets over which water will gently flow into a basin.
The Roundhouse, one of the site’s original structures, is being stabilized and renovated. The foundation for the second floor is being poured in late summer and early fall. The brick walls and interior bridge crane will be restored, and open space with gardens are planned. In the second quarter of 2021, GSVlabs (Global Silicon Valley Labs) will make the Roundhouse their newest innovation hub.
The entire project will be designed to environmental LEED for Neighborhood Development standards. Native trees, plants and flowers — chosen for their ability to attract bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators — are being planted throughout Hazelwood Green. The canopy trees (Lindens, Catalpas) framing the Plaza are being planted as an experiment to test how vegetation can mitigate air pollution and trap particulate matter. The master planning process for the 1.3-mile riverfront part of Hazelwood Green has just begun, and aims to connect the neighborhood of Hazelwood to the river.