Pittsburgh’s First Fully Designed Complete Street at Almono

Nov 16, 2016 Economy, People & Community, Transportation & Infrastructure

In 2010, the Power of 32 held 156 community conversations in 32 counties to create a shared vision for the region’s future. The outcome was a Regional Agenda, published late in 2011, outlining 15 initiatives. One of the key initiatives was to create better sites for business growth in the region. The goal was to launch a fund to assist development of high-quality sites, emphasizing redevelopment of brownfields, to support business relocations and expansions to the 32-county region.

In May 2015, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development announced the Power of 32 Site Development Fund LP, a nearly $49 million private, patient loan fund that helps close critical infrastructure financing gaps and increase the inventory of pad-ready sites in the 32-county greater Pittsburgh region.

Since then the Fund has made two loans totaling $8.3 million: $2.6 million to Trimodal Terminal, LP in Follansbee, W. Va. – an 80-acre brownfield site along the Ohio River and $5.7 million to Phase II of Clinton Commerce Park in Findlay Township in the strategically important Pittsburgh International Airport Corridor.

On October 27, the Power of 32 Site Development Fund announced its largest investment to date, a loan of $9.5 million to help fund critical site preparation – including construction of Pittsburgh’s first fully designed complete street – at Almono, a 178-acre waterfront former brownfield located in the city’s Hazelwood neighborhood.

The announcement was made at the Almono site (an amalgamation of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers), which was formerly part of the J&L/LTV Steel Hazelwood Works.  With street construction and other infrastructure work nearly complete, street paving is underway and the site is positioned for vertical construction.

The first official tenant of the development is Uber, who will use 42 acres on the site for a test track for its self-driving cars and renovate the historic train roundhouse building for an Advanced Technologies Center.  Future investments in office, incubator and research facilities – plus housing and public open spaces – are expected to position the development as a greater regional hub.

A Signature Investment

According to Dennis Yablonsky, chairman of the Power of 32 Site Development Fund and CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, this is a very exciting economic and community development project for the city, the county and the region.

“This is a signature investment for the fund because of a new standard of sustainability, in the broadest sense, being integrated at Almono – Pittsburgh’s last big brownfield. The fund is excited to have invested in Pittsburgh’s first fully designed complete street, which is emblematic of the forward-thinking, world-class development taking place at Almono. This highly-visible development can be a model for incorporating this standard at other sites and projects throughout the greater region,” remarked Yablonsky.

What is a Complete Street?

The complete street concept is critical to creating the developments of the future – places where community and mobility needs are in balance and where safety, independence, connectivity and healthy interaction are maximized.  A complete street allows pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders to get from one place to another in convenient and efficient ways.  

“The complete street earns its name because of the vision and engineering that make it a focal point for intermodal and interpersonal activity and connections,” said City of Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto, who has been a champion for a complete streets policy that will impact the design, construction and maintenance of city streets, sidewalks and other public infrastructure.

Mayor Peduto called the transformation of the riverfront from heavy industry to mixed use, residential and light industry a “connecting act.”

“Investing in smart, multimodal transportation infrastructure is among the greatest needs facing Pittsburgh.  It will support economic growth, as well the health and safety of everyone in the city, said Peduto.  “Through complete streets policies and programs we will commit to the quality design and maintenance of rights of way and further mark Pittsburgh as a leader in 21st-century planning.”

Connecting Hazelwood – and the Greater Region – to Opportunity

The site’s fully designed complete street will also be a connector to Hazelwood, which saw its vitality decline when LTV Steel ceased operations in the late 1990s. 

“The closing of the mill led to a dramatic loss in the neighborhood’s population and years of disinvestment – not a new story for Pittsburgh,” said Hazelwood Initiative Executive Director Sonya Tilghman.  “A lot of progress has been made to reverse that trend, and more progress definitely has to happen.  But what’s planned for the Almono site – particularly the strong connections to the neighborhood, ample public space and workforce development opportunities – makes the site one of the anchors for the Hazelwood community’s redevelopment.

Donald F. Smith, Jr., president of the Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC) – the recipient of the Power of 32 Site Development Fund loan and the organization responsible for overseeing Almono’s site preparation – added, “Like so many brownfields in our region, Almono required massive infrastructure investment in order to create a pad-ready, infrastructure-rich environment that can capture much-needed growth opportunities generated by our world-class universities, medical research and healthcare.  The fund’s loan filled a critical gap for financing site preparation and improvements which will be the foundation for new jobs, new taxes and new neighborhoods that will move our greater region forward.”

Regional Cooperation

The Site Development Fund is built on the belief that successful business investment depends on all the strengths of the 32-county region regardless of geographic boundaries, and that an investment in real estate at any one location benefits the region as a whole.

“Metropolitan regions are critical competitive units in the modern economy.  The people engaged in the Power of 32 visioning process recognized the increasing demand in the greater region for larger development sites for businesses that will have regional economic and employment impact.  It made sense to create a fund which could invest in increasing pad-ready sites across the region,” said Pat Getty, president of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation – an investor in the Power of 32 Site Development Fund and, along with the Richard King Mellon Foundation and Heinz Endowments, an owner of Almono.  “Many of the most promising sites are brownfields, like Almono, that lost their original purpose when the steel industry declined.  Redeveloping these sites means that places such as Hazelwood, Follansbee, W. Va., and other similar communities in the greater region, can have a significant opportunity to benefit in the future economy.”

Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald concurs, “This region has a reputation of being a national leader in brownfield redevelopment.  Working together – government alongside the business and foundation communities – we’re transforming old industrial sites into economic assets.  Our investment in these sites positions them for success with private sector investment following because the market is there.”

In his closing remarks at the announcement event at the Almono site, Yablonsky praised the cooperation that is making this project possible. “This project is a microcosm of what makes the region great – government, the philanthropic community and business owners all investing time and money in this site to advance economic development. This happens all over the city, the county and the region. This project is another reminder of how working together we can get things done.”

The Fund

The Power of 32 Site Development Fund  has 15 limited partners and concentrates its investments on eligible sites in 32 counties in western Pennsylvania and parts of Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia.  Special consideration is given to brownfield sites that can be prepared for reinvestment. The fund is overseen by a Board of Managers. Callay Capital LLC serves as the Fund Manager and is the point of contact for projects seeking investment from the Fund. The Fund is built on the belief that successful business investment depends on all the strengths of the 32-county region regardless of geographic boundaries, and that an investment in real estate at any one location benefits the region as a whole. 

“The fund paves the way for companies and other entities to come in quickly with brick and mortar construction and enables facilities to be built without delay, which is critical for our region,” said Susan Baker Shipley, president of the Western Pennsylvania and Ohio Valley Region, Huntington Bank (one of the fund’s 15 limited partners) and a board member of the Power of 32 Site Development Fund.

The Fund is continuing to take applications for investment.  Visit P32SiteFund.com to learn more, including a list of the 32 counties in which projects must be located.