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First-year guard Aaryn Battle (1) dribbles the ball during Thursday evening’s game against Wake Forest in the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt women’s basketball falls back into their old habits, fall to Wake Forest 65-50
By Sara Meyer, Staff Writer • February 23, 2024

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First-year guard Aaryn Battle (1) dribbles the ball during Thursday evening’s game against Wake Forest in the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt women’s basketball falls back into their old habits, fall to Wake Forest 65-50
By Sara Meyer, Staff Writer • February 23, 2024

Hazelwood community shares thoughts on BioForge project

Johnston+Avenue+in+Hazelwood.
Andrew McLaughlin | Staff Writer
Johnston Avenue in Hazelwood.

Walking through Pittsburgh’s Hazelwood neighborhood, the sound of a pile driver echoes from the 178-acre Hazelwood Green tucked alongside the Monongahela River. Both Pitt and CMU are building new complexes here, a large brownfield development on the site of a former Jones and Laughlin steel mill.

Along with Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Innovation Center, the University of Pittsburgh’s BioForge Biomanufacturing Center is currently under construction at Hazelwood Green with an expected cost of approximately $250 million. 

Barbara Warwick, District 5 City Councilmember for the City of Pittsburgh, said she is hopeful that even as Hazelwood Green continues to develop with projects such as the BioForge, people employed in the new developments will not feel separated from the rest of the neighborhood. 

“We shouldn’t have a wall between Hazelwood Green and Hazelwood — it really all is one community,” Warwick said. “It’s wonderful to grow and develop, but what’s the point if it’s not benefitting the people who are here right now?”

Sonya Tilghman is executive director of the nonprofit Hazelwood Initiative. She said there is still some uncertainty on how the BioForge will affect Hazelwood residents, but Pitt is planning to hold a community summit on Feb. 24 to explain details of the development.

“I think there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what [the Bioforge] is and what it means,” Tilghman said. “Hopefully [the summit] will meet its goal to enlighten people about what it is and hone in on how it can be positively impactful as a neighbor in this community.” 

Warwick said the BioForge and other developments at Hazelwood Green present an opportunity for workforce training that can grant opportunities to residents of Hazelwood and surrounding communities. The BioForge alone is expected to generate 170 full-time jobs upon its completion, with half of those jobs going to people with a trade school or community college education. 

“That is going to be an uphill climb,” Warwick said. “Oftentimes workforce development is easy to fund and easy to talk about, but it can be very difficult to get young people in those roles, in those training programs.” 

Veronica Jones, a Hazelwood community member, said she is optimistic about the potential for new jobs in Hazelwood but is unsure if any will be available to long-standing community members. 

“I hope that they give first dibs on the new jobs to people who live here,” Jones said.

RJ Nesbitt, another resident, said he is happy to see new developments on Hazelwood Green. Nesbitt said he is cautiously hopeful that Pitt will include the community in the final stage of the planning process.

“There’s a lot of open space at Hazelwood Green,” Nesbitt said. “I just hope that developments like the Pitt BioForge actively work to involve people here rather than pushing us farther away from the Green.”

When completed years from now, Hazelwood Green will be home to 178 acres of mixed-use developments, including residential, commercial and industrial buildings. Warwick emphasized that she hopes to see Pitt involve the community in the final plans. 

“What is very important to residents is that they are part of the planning process as the development moves forward,” Warwick said. “Once deals are made, they want to be able to provide input into how things roll out.”

Notably, the University’s Office of Engagement and Community Affairs lists a Greater Hazelwood Neighborhood Commitment on its website, citing examples in which Pitt has supported the neighborhood in the past.

By the time Hazelwood Green is completed years from now, the vast open areas are expected to be filled in with new construction and an influx of potential new residents who would live and shop in Hazelwood.

“Once it’s done, there’s probably going to be about 5,000 more people on the site as residents, and that’s about the size of the neighborhood today,” Tilghman said. “So it’s going to double in size, and that is going to fundamentally change today’s neighborhood.” 

Some residents are excited about the idea of an increasingly revitalized Hazelwood, but they want their sense of neighborhood identity to remain.

“When we have universities and developers coming in, I hope that they also walk along Second Avenue and talk to members of the community about what we want and need most,” Nesbitt said.

According to Tilghman, the development of Hazelwood Green separate from the old Hazelwood business district has raised concerns over gentrification in the neighborhood. Hazelwood Initiative says they hope to work with developers and new tenants — including Pitt — to achieve the best results for the community.

“Of course, residents are concerned about gentrification, and so that’s why communication with the developers of the site is really important,” Tilghman said. “We need to be partners in how this neighborhood moves forward.” 

The BioForge will continue the expansion of Hazelwood Green, and the Hazelwood Initiative is helping to create affordable housing now before property values increase.

“What we’re really going to need to be careful about, of course, is housing affordability,” Warwick said. “The Heinz Endowment has been working through Hazelwood Initiative to make sure that affordable housing is being created now before these big projects go up.”

With 53% of Hazelwood children living in poverty compared to 31% in the City of Pittsburgh as a whole, Tilghman sees affordable housing as a step towards mitigating any potential effects of gentrification caused by the development of Hazelwood Green.

“There’s just not enough money to go around,” Tilghman said. “And so you can do any number of things that kind of help people make it day-to-day, but at the end of the day, people just need more money.”

According to the 2019 Greater Hazelwood Neighborhood Plan, food access is a concern in Hazelwood, and the neighborhood’s Rite Aid drug store closed last December. Efforts to establish a co-op grocery store have garnered significant attention, as doing so could help establish commerce on Second Avenue as a counterpart to Hazelwood Green.

“I know that it is very important for Hazelwood residents that any type of grocery store is ideally on Second Avenue in the historic business district,” Warwick said. “I think there is perhaps a concern that down the road, we see a grocery store deep in the Green that ultimately is not accessible on foot.”

Nesbitt said his family typically has to look beyond Hazelwood for affordable food options.

“We typically drive to the Target in Homestead or the Walmart in West Mifflin to shop,” Nesbitt said. “It’s not especially convenient, but it’s the best option.”

With the Pitt BioForge Biomanufacturing Center expected to be completed in 2025, Warwick said she hopes that it and other developments at Hazelwood Green serve as an impetus for conversations on equitable development in Hazelwood.

“I am very hopeful from the proactive engagement that we have seen on housing in preparation for the growth of the Hazelwood Green,” Warwick said. “Hopefully we will see the same engagement for food access and also just general development of the business district.”

Once the BioForge is completed, Tilghman said she hopes that visitors and students will look beyond Hazelwood Green and discover the entire neighborhood for themselves.

“We want [Hazelwood Green] to be part of the community, but the community is larger than that,” Tilghman said. “So as students start to come down to Hazelwood Green, make sure that you experience the neighborhood as a whole as well.” 

Even with the potential changes that could come to Hazelwood with the continued development, Tilghman said at the end of the day, investment in the neighborhood is welcome for the benefits it provides.

“Change is inevitable, but we are in a place where we want to welcome investment and welcome new people, just not to the detriment of the existing neighborhood,” Tilghman said.



About the Contributor
Andrew McLaughlin, Staff Writer