Almono: A Premier Brownfield Development

Once a smoke-belching steel mill on the shores of the Monongahela River, the Almono property in the Hazelwood neighborhood of the City of Pittsburgh will ultimately be home to an innovation hub featuring residential neighborhoods and public open spaces. The 178-acre site is one of Pittsburgh’s finest urban brownfield development projects.

Remediating the Aftermath of Industrialization

During its height of manufacturing prosperity, Pittsburgh industry often affected air quality.

With an abundance of coal and good railroad access, the City of Pittsburgh, PA  flourished into a wealthy manufacturing mecca by the late 1800s. Pegged as the “Smoky City,” Pittsburgh’s factories and mills spewed so much smoke from coal-fired energy that daylight often turned to night. Despite the pollution, fortunes were built from the steel the city supplied during WWII and into the 1960s. The city and its residents enjoyed an abundance of manufacturing jobs and a vibrant economy.

Pittsburgh’s air is clean today, but the glory days of manufacturing left behind many brownfield sites. After the steel industry’s collapse in the late 1970s, acres of closed mill and factory locations sat abandoned and unsightly for decades. When the Environmental Protection Agency began its brownfield development program in 1995, it brought the promise of revitalization and renewal to once-prosperous mill towns such as Pittsburgh’s Hazelwood neighborhood.

LTV Hazelwood
The Almono property encompasses 178-acres on the former LTV Hazelwood steel facility (formerly the Jones and Laughlin coke plant).

“With land at a premium cost and with more restrictions on environmental permitting, remediating sites such as the Hazelwood coke works is essential to revitalizing our Pittsburgh neighborhoods,” says GAI Pennsylvania Business Development Director Bob Hurley. “Developing brownfields like the Hazelwood mill makes good economic sense.”

Transforming Liabilities into Productive Assets

Hazelwood sits on the shores of the Monongahela River, southeast of downtown Pittsburgh. For decades, the massive Hazelwood coke works, last owned by LTV Steel, dominated the area and brought prosperity. Jobs were plentiful and the main avenue teemed with grocery stores, shops, and restaurants.

When the mill closed nearly 20 years ago, the neighborhood diminished considerably. As residents left and businesses and schools shuttered, the area fell on hard times.

Enter the Almono partnership— a consortium named after Pittsburgh’s three rivers and made up of the Heinz Endowments and the Benedum, Richard King Mellon, and McCune foundations. After purchasing the site in 2002, the Almono partnership, together with the Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC) have a brownfield development project underway to transform this site into a new, over five million square foot, vibrant mixed use development center of technology, industry, business, and  community.

As a leader in brownfield development, GAI is playing an essential role in this effort, particularly coordinating approvals for roadway improvements and rezoning requirements. “An important part of this project was rezoning the site as a Special Planning (SP) District,” says Hurley. “By changing the site zoning from ‘general industrial’ to ‘mixed use,’ Almono and RIDC were able to develop the property in keeping with their established vision.”

A Focus on Green and Sustainability

Brownfield redevelopment efforts at the Hazelwood site focus on long-term green and sustainable practices—alternate sources of energy, transportation innovation, and water management are key components of the site design and construction. In phase one of the project, GAI provided survey, site design, environmental evaluations, permitting, and coordination with the City of Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation related to roadway, traffic, and highway issues.

GAI developed landscape plans depicting the plantings for the street trees, bioretention areas and other stormwater best management practices.

GAI took the project from preliminary site design through final roadway and infrastructure design to construction. The first stage of the project saw GAI providing preliminary engineering studies, conducting a traffic impact study, and completing construction plans and permitting.”

As the project continues, GAI is involved with many aspects of the design and planning of the brownfield redevelopment effort, including designs for:

  • The new Signature Boulevard roadway, street lighting, trail design, utility infrastructure, and sustainable design elements
  • Underground utilities including electric, gas, water storm sewer systems, sanitary sewer systems, telephone, and cable conduit systems
  • Street bumpouts, ponds, and bioswales throughout the site

In all of the facility designs, GAI prepared and submitted a stormwater management plan that took into consideration the presence of contaminated soils and the need to isolate/control infiltration. In addition to the industrial contamination, the project’s  desirable riverfront location also presented  development obstacles including uneven topography and existing infrastructure.

The use of structural best management practices (BMPs) within the public right-of-way also presented challenges. “While celebrated for pursuing the first complete street of its scale within the region, there wasn’t a formal system in place for local approval and adoption of such facilities,“ says Hurley. “The Almono Team worked closely with local government on a framework for review, approval, adoption, and maintenance of historically non-standard facilities within a public right-of-way. These efforts focused not only on the street stormwater system, but also the integration of stormwater BMPs with elements of a complete street.”

A Promise for Growth and Renewal

Over the next two decades, the vision for the Hazelwood development is one that will connect with regional economic hubs and share the mile and a half of riverfront with the city’s community. For Pittsburgh, it holds the promise of growth, renewal, and progress.

Contact GAI PA Business Development Director Bob Hurley, 412.399.5537, and learn how he can connect you with superior engineering, planning, development, and economic strategy services that will help your initiatives succeed. 

For related information, check out the following articles:

Brownfields: Recycling Our Past | August 29, 2012

Power to the Pedestrian: Road Diets for Walk Friendly Cities | April 27, 2017

Learn More.