PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s a sprawling expanse of riverfront land stretching a mile and half along the Hazelwood flats.
The city and its partners have plans of transforming it into a one-of-a-kind development with the highest environmental standards.
“Flat available land of 180 acres where you can create anything. What we need to do is raise the bar to make sure that Hazelwood gets what we would demand in neighborhoods like Shadyside or Squirrel Hill,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.
But after more than a decade on the market, not one developer is under contract to build anything on the site; Councilman Corey O’Connor has grown impatient and says prospective businesses have been locked out.
“When you get people that call you weekly and want to talk about buying three or four acres on this site and they don’t get a quick response, that’s a problem,” he said.
“We have not accepted some offers that have come down the pike for this site because they really didn’t set the aspiration bar high enough,” said Don Smith, of RIDC.
Twelve years ago, four local foundations purchased the site and formed a partnership with the Regional Industrial Development Corporation, or RIDC, to oversee the development.
Smith concedes they’ve turned some developers away as they continue to define standards for so-called green development – low carbon emissions, clean energy, low water usage – all of which adds to the cost.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “Aren’t you setting the bar a little too high for commercial developers?”
Smith: “We don’t think so. We think Pittsburgh, really, Pittsburgh has set its standards too low for a long time now, and really what we need to do is recognize we are a great global city. “
The master plan for development is ambitious.
RIDC envisions turning an abandon LTV mill into a marketplace and perhaps a film sound stage. The rest of the site would be a mix of residential, offices and business sites, including an eco-tech park, which would house clean energy firms.
Mayor Peduto says RIDC is right to hold out for the highest, best use.
“I think that there’s probably some folks that would like to see that area developed into an asphalt parking lot with a Walmart in the middle of it, but that’s never been the intention,” he said.
But time, which is often called the enemy of development, is moving on. And while Pittsburgh is a hot real estate market now, that could change.
Just last month, RIDC and the foundation hired another consultant to refine the environmental standards and master plan. Their report is due in April, but O’Connor calls it one more delay for a site that he says has already been studied to death.
“Once we get to April and get the study back, what’s to say we’re not going to get another one and another one and another one?” he said.
The city hopes that come summer they’ll be able to announce the first development contracts for the site, but the proof will be in the pudding. Any further delay will be food for critics who fear that it will remain one big open field.
New Hazelwood Development A Missing Piece In Pittsburgh’s Comeback (9/19/14)
Hazelwood Development Project Gets $10 Million In State Help (10/15/14)
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