Hazelwood Initiative, Inc., (HI) began in 1994 with Mayor Tom Murphy’s initiative to organize maintenance task forces throughout the city. In response, over a dozen concerned residents founded the Hazelwood Neighborhood Maintenance Task Force (HNMTF). The group worked with City department representatives from the Bureaus of Building Inspection, Environmental Services, and Public Safety; and the Department of Public Works to address day-to-day maintenance issues in the community. By taking on small community issues and problems such as vacant, abandoned housing, junk cars, and illegal dumping, HNMTF worked through its first few years cleaning up the commercial district and the river’s edge.
By 1996, with assistance and support from Operation Weed and Seed, the organization grew to membership of more than 24, with more volunteers joining for specific community projects like the annual Operation Clean-Sweep; initiating and planting of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy garden at the corner of Second and Hazelwood Avenues; and acquiring funding for the purchase and installation of holiday lighting for Second Avenue. This was the first such lighting the community had seen in almost thirty years.
During the late 1990s, the neighborhood task force joined with the Hazelwood Economic Leveraging Partnership, a local group which garnered funds for local development and opposed the rebuilding of LTV Steel’s Coke Works. Soon after plans for a new coke plant were defeated, the two groups merged into the Hazelwood Initiative, Inc. Chartered in 1999, HI was a recognized 501(c)(3) community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to betterment of the Greater Hazelwood area.
In its early days, with the support of the Department of City Planning and the Urban Redevelopment Authority. These included commercial development along Second Avenue through the city's Mainstreet Program and housing development with the Pittsburgh Housing Development Corporation. HI also advised the Department of Environmental Protection on remediation standards for the former LTV Coke Works. As the decade of the 00’s came to a close, HI anticipated working on redevelopment plans for this brownfield site with ALMONO, LP, a partnership of the 3 major Pittsburgh foundations that own the site.
Since 2010, HI has been involved in many efforts, including the stabilization of both residential and commercial property in the neighborhood, supporting community “greening” efforts and growing the capacity of the organization to better serve its members and neighbors. HI has also facilitated discussions between the ALMONO partners and the community as the development of the 178-acre site draws near.
In 2014, through a grant from the Heinz Endowments, HI purchased and rehabilitated the former Burgwin School building, allowing Propel Schools to establish itself as the neighborhood's only public school above pre-K. HI has continued its efforts to preserve community assets through the purchase of the former Gladstone School, with its ultimate use to be determined through an ongoing series of community visioning forums.
Through its Planning Committee, HI has developed a zone-by-zone housing strategy to guide its housing investments in Hazelwood. Partnering with Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh (RTP), HI has been purchasing and rehabilitating houses for sale to first-time homebuyers with low-to-moderate incomes. HI's own Discount Home Repair program and its partnership with RTP have worked towards stabilizing and improving the neighborhood’s housing stock through free and discounted home repairs to help homeowners maintain the value in their homes.
OUR DEVELOPMENT PRINCIPLES
• Maintaining and growing diversity (economic, ethnic, age, race, orientation).
• Affirm a balance of affordability in all development, housing and commercial, for all low wealth families and residents.
• Build from strengths (location, markets and assets).
• Development and infrastructure should meet the highest possible sustainability standards and be at a neighborhood scale.
• Attractive, equitable transportation/mobility choices should be part of any development to connect people to jobs, education, goods and other opportunities.