Veterans and Community Members Join Together on Service Projects

If you walk by the gazebo at the corner of Second and Johnston Avenue, you may notice a change in color and more benches. The KaBoom playground on Lytle Street now has a limestone path bordered by newly planted trees and shrubs. Vendor stands on the 4800 block of Second Ave now sport extended roofs and better coverage from wind and rain. Hard to believe that all of this occurred in less than a day, but it all happened thanks to the efforts of The Mission Continues (TMC) partnering with Hazelwood residents and stakeholders on September 16th.


TMC is a nation-wide nonprofit, non-partisan organization that connects veterans to community groups and opportunities for impactful service projects. Pittsburgh’s 1st Platoon, which focuses exclusively on Hazelwood, previously built a stage on Second Avenue, erected sheds for two community gardens, and was vital in building the KaBoom playground on Lytle Street last September.


Returning almost a year to the day of the playground build-out last year, this day of service was done in remembrance of the attacks on September 11, 2001, an event which led many veterans in TMC to originally enlist. While their time in the military may have passed, TMC offers its members a constructive outlet to connect with fellow veterans and neighbors in the spirit of community service.

Hazelwood Initiative would like to thank TMC's 1st Platoon, PAEYC, Center of Life, and everyone that volunteered to make this a great event!


CMU’s Robotics Institute to Anchor Mill 19’s First Building

Mill 19, the largest remaining building on Hazelwood’s 178-acre Almono site, has its first official tenant: Carnegie Mellon University’s Advanced Robotics Manufacturing (ARM) Institute. This marks the first occupant set to lease space within the former coke works plant being rehabilitated by the Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern PA (RIDC), a non-profit developer which originally managed the Almono project.

Besides robotics, ARM will also host a variety of light manufacturing and 3-D printing capabilities within the first of three separate three-story buildings to be constructed inside the 180,000-square foot structure. RIDC plans to strip the Mill of its original roof and siding to leave only its skeleton in-tact, and replace parts of the roof with solar panels to allow CMU’s building to operate with zero net energy consumption.

Governor Tom Wolf recently toured the site, and sees the Mill 19 project as symbolic of the region’s evolution: “From the commonwealth’s point of view, it’s a way to renovate, rehabilitate an area that’s been unutilized for the last ‘how-many’ years. Aesthetically, think of what it means for the appearances in this area, but then it also reconnects the area of Hazelwood. I think what they’re trying to do here is an audacious thing: to try to re-establish that connection in a way that pays tribute to Pittsburgh’s current incarnation as a high-tech capital.”

RIDC plans to attract other major tech and research firms to anchor the remaining two buildings planned for the Mill, with ideal tenants striking a balance of economic opportunity, local workforce provision, and eco-friendly practices.

Regardless of who ultimately lands in the Mill, RIDC’s president, Don Smith, says that the site is bound by land covenants to maintain its public accessibility, with community space, walkways, gardens, and other recreational amenities already factored into designs. While restaurants may arise as future tenants, Smith stresses that RIDC “doesn’t want to take away from the Hazelwood business district,” and hopes that Second Avenue “serves as a lot of the restaurants and service activities.”

The project’s development is scheduled to occur in three phases, with the plans to start the first phase of construction by the spring of 2019.


Pastor Tim Smith remains hopeful that the former Gladstone Middle School will be used to help the Greater Hazelwood community, and possibly his Center of Life nonprofit.

In July, it was announced in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article  that the Urban Redevelopment Authority was seeking to buy Gladstone, which has been closed since 2001, and several other schools from the Pittsburgh School District.  No plans have been announced since this time.

In an interview, Tim Smith, whose Center of Life program sits across from Gladstone, expressed interest in having the site serve the expanding needs of his program, and other programs in the Greater Hazelwood community.

But nothing is guaranteed right now.

To date, no one has bought the property, which is still listed for sale at a price tag of $250,000.  That is a low price for a building that sits on 6.6 acres.

But the building may not be able to be saved.  In an interview with Greater Hazelwood Matters staff, city planner Ray Gastil said different issues with the building, including potential asbestos contamination, may mean it has to be torn down.

Additionally, there are other people interested in the building, which will sit about a mile away from new development at the Almono site.  During a visit to the URA, Greater Hazelwood Matters staff learned that another buyer is interested in turning the building into housing.

When the school was closed, however, Smith said the community lost a big resource.

Many programs were held in the former middle school.  These include programs from different organizations like the YMCA.

Smith, who started Center of Life after the school closed, held a father son basketball program in Gladstone.

After the school closed, one of his students was shot in the back and killed.

As stated, it remains to be seen how the Gladstone site will be redeveloped.

Pittsburgh’s Oldest House for Sale

The oldest out in Pittsburgh is for sale.

Built in 1792, the John Woods house, which is located on the corner of Monogahela in Hazelwood, has been owned by the Urban Redevelopment Authority since 2001, when it was purchased for a sum of $25,000.

On its website, the URA referred to the house as “home to the oldest homestead in Pittsburgh and represents a true gem in the City’s history.”

In 1977 the city council added the woods to the list of historic designation. Later in 2001 the URA brought the house from Andre Keith, and not the house is currently being unused and abandoned.

Now, the URA is looking for a buyer for city’s oldest house, which sits on a hill with a solid view of both downtown Pittsburgh and the Almono site.

But there are defiantly some down parts to both the house and neighborhood.  All of the windows of the property are currently boarded, and the landscaping needs work.

It is also currently far away from the main corridor of 2ndAvenue. However, it could be a solid investment property once the Almono site, which is right down the street, is developed.

As of yet, no buyer has come forward for the property.

The Spray Park

Local officials believe the new spray park, which is located behind Propel Hazelwood on Johnston Avenue, represents a positive part of Greater Hazelwood’s redevelopment.

The spray park sits on what was an old pool behind the former Burgwin school.  It was opened in  1939, but eventually closed in 2004.  Since that time, it was abandoned, and, as city councilman Corey O’Connor said in an interview, many people had to go to Shenley Park and elsewhere if they wanted to swim.  Now, although it is not a pool, the spray park, which was opened on May 23, lets people cool off on hot days within their own neighborhood.

To O’Connor, the park is another step in improving the quality of life for local residents.

Several types of sprayers are on the spray park site.  This includes flower-shaped sprayers, shorted water spouts and a jungle-gym-like sprayer.

Those who do not wish to get wet can still play on the parks playground equipment, or shoot hoops at the basketball court.

The park represents the sixth time the city has changed a pool into a spray park.  O’Connor said its part of a larger effort to make sure people who once had a pool have some sort of “aquatics” in their neighborhood.   Other spray parks have been built in Beltzhoover, Beechview and Troy Hill, among other neighborhoods.

In addition to the work of Corey O’Connor, who chairs the city’s xxxxxxxx, The Hazelwood Initiative, which owns the property, and Rev. Michael Murray Sr., a community activist, were active in the creation of the park.

“The City’s work to improve Burgwin Park is a great step forward by the City of Pittsburgh to improve the quality of life for Hazelwood kids and their families.” Rev. Murray said at the grand opening in May.

The park officially closes in September.

Dylamato’s Food Market

The Greater Hazelwood neighborhood has long been considered a food desert. Dianne Shenk has literally taken a stand against that.

Shenk is the owner of Dylamato’s Market on Second Avenue. She has operated the market, which sells fresh produce, for a year. Shenk saw an opportunity to set up the stand, given the lack of food options in the greater Hazelwood community. The neighborhood, has not had much in terms of fresh food options since the closing of Dimperio’s Market on Second Avenue in 2008.

She hopes her food stand, which she eventually hopes will develop into a brick-and-mortar store, will provide a long-term oasis to customers.

Propel Hazelwood Set to Open It's Doors for Second Straight Year

While the fate of the longtime abandoned Gladstone Middle School remains up in the air, the Greater Hazelwood community’s other once abandoned school is ready to open its doors for a second straight year.

Burgwin Elementary School is now Propel Hazelwood.  It is the area’s tenth charter school Propel’s network, according to the charter school’s website.

The school was officially opened on September 14, 2014. Last year, Propel Hazelwood served students from kindergarten to 4th grade. This year, it will add a fifth grade class.

For nearly a decade, the fate of the school was unknown.   Built in 1937, Burgwin closed its doors in 2006. This left the Greater Hazelwood area without any school. Gladstone Middle School closed in 2001.

But in March, 2014, it was announced the district had found a buyer for the Burgwin building, the Hazelwood Initiative. The Hazelwood Initiative, who received money for the building from the Heinz Foundation, then helped establish the school.

Propel’s mission, according to its website, is to “the transformation of public education so that all children have access to high performing schools.”

All ten of Propel’s charter schools are in working-class, largely African American neighborhoods in the Pittsburgh area.

In an interview with Greater Hazelwood Matters, councilman Corey O’Connor said that the reopening of the school was a sign of Hazelwood’s redevelopment.

Cole Wants Almono to Bring Jobs

Poorlaw’s Saundra Cole hopes that the proposed redevelopment of the Almono brownfield site brings jobs to Greater Hazelwood, a community she referred to as a “nation as one.”

Cole, the founder and director of the Hazelwood-based organization, shared her thoughts during an interview with Greater Hazelwood Matters staff. Poorlaw, which stands for People of Origin Rightfully Loved and Wanted, has been active in the Greater Hazelwood community since 2004. While Poorlaw has largely been focused on reducing violence, Cole said the organization will also lobby for the creation of job opportunities on the former LTV Coke site.

“The main focus is to make sure people in the community have first preference on those jobs. I feel like they’re in our community,” Cole said during the interview. “That’s where I’m going to start as far as the development.”

As it stands now, no formal plans have been made for what will actually be placed on Almono, which stretches along the Monongahela River from below the tracks on Second Avenue to the Hot Metal Bridge. But in interviews with Greater Hazelwood Matters, city councilman Corey O’Connor and Eric Stoler of the Heinz Endowments both suggested some sort of light industry could be placed on the site.

Almono is but one of the concerns, however, for Poorlaw, which was founded in response to the incarceration of Cole’s husband, Terrell Johnson.  He was released from prison after 17 years after a new trial found him not guilty of a murder he was convicted of committing. Cole’s efforts with Poorlaw helped her husband earn a new trial.

“The criminal justice system is no joke. You get in that system, it’s hard to get out of that system. He did 17 years for a crime he did not commit,” Cole said.

Today, aside from working on nonviolence effort, Cole also hopes to help end tensions between “up top” – Glen Hazel – and the rest of Greater Hazelwood.

In her eyes, all of Greater Hazelwood is simply one community – or one nation – that is stronger when united.