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1.09.2015

PGH Hazelwood LTV Steel Brownfields and Bethlehem Steel's Redevelopment

I often drive by the Hazelwood LTV Steel brownfields, but yesterday I had a little time and opted to stop and take some pictures with them snow covered and the sun rising. With all of the recent work, it seems like this is the last remaining building of this once enormous plant. This was the last operating steel plant within Pittsburgh city limits when it closed in 1998. In 1999, when demolition began, Mayor Murphy promised that there would be great economic development on the site. 15 years later we are still hearing just talk. It is depressing to see a once behemoth plant be in this sad state.
 Downtown in view
This property has a ton of potential to provide employment to the surrounding communities. This is an opportunity to give back to the communities hurt by the "urban renaissance" projects of Allegheny Center in downtown, the Civic Arena project in the former, predominantly black, Lower Hill District neighborhood that was once considered to be the most vibrant black neighborhood between Harlem and Chicago, the Penn Circle project, and more. A city with a legacy of horrendously botched displacement projects all of a sudden has a large amount of vacant brownfield land and an opportunity to try to make up for the shortcomings of previous mayoral administrations. I hope Peduto takes the hint and tries to do something positive with this land. The planned project, while promising, threatens to displace the current residents of Hazelwood, as opposed to integrating with the community. We could see a repeat of the gentrification in East Liberty and Lawrenceville in recent times. 
 You can see that this is a vast expanse of land.

It is a shame that the bulk of the former plant has been torn down, with the exception of that single building. Another piece of our American culture has vanished through demolition. Originally being from near Bethlehem on the other side of the state, I never got the chance to see this plant in action. I am familiar though with watching a hulking steel plant get shut down and redeveloped because of my familiarity with the Bethlehem Steel project. I like the fact that the plant history is alluded to un the redevelopment projects at Station Square, Southside Works, 1 Technology Center on Second Avenue in Oakland, the Waterfront in Homestead, the industrial park on the steel site in Duquesne, and others, but I do not like the fact that hardly any of the relics or old buildings remain, at least in the way that the Bethlehem Steel main plant was redeveloped on the other side of the state. As opposed to mass demolition, they have worked to keep as much of the plant as possible intact, in order for the historical fabric of the plant to be preserved, with progress still being maintained.
That project is still a work in progress, but a vibrant performing arts center has been created in the shadow of the old blast furnaces at the Artsquest and Levitt Pavilion facilities, a new studios for the local PBS station, and a giant Sands Casino, the most successful facility of its kind in the state, an intermodal facility at the former rail yard, and an industrial park, have all been erected on the mile-long tract that was once the flagship plant for Bethlehem Steel, the nation's second largest steel company when it was at its peak. I greatly appreciate the fact that they have taken the chance to preserve this chapter of our history, in a working museum of sorts, that is vibrant and an economic engine for the place that was hurting really badly, to the point that Billy Joel even sang about the region's economic misfortunes. Now the area is coming back. Employment is rising and a new industry has sprung up in a place that seemed hopeless after Bethlehem Steel shut down. All of this has been done, while leaving intact as many buildings as possible. When I first came to Pittsburgh and saw how little was preserved, relative to the Bethlehem project, I was disappointed. I hope to see them take an progressive approach more rooted in preservation with the pending redevelopment project at the Carrie Furnace across the river from the former Homestead Works.

As I digress from what I originally intended to talk about with this post, I hope to see redevelopment at the Hazelwood plant that benefits people within the community, instead of displacing or overlooking them. There is so much potential for that large plot of land. I also hope to see them preserve that last remaining building in one way or another.

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