Many years in the making, the first tangible work in redeveloping the former LTV coke works in Hazelwood is at hand.
Advanced Builders Inc. is expected to begin grading the 178-acre property along the Monongahela River on Monday as part of a proposed $1 billion redevelopment that will feature housing, office and research and development space, and other amenities.
The Regional Industrial Development Corp., acting on behalf of developer Almono LP, recently awarded a contract totaling slightly less than $7 million to Advanced Builders to do the site work.
Don Smith, RIDC president, said the grading is expected to take six to eight months, depending on the weather. Once that is done, work can begin to install infrastructure, including utilities and a "signature" boulevard that will run the length of the site.
"It's definitely good to have the project moving forward," Mr. Smith said. "We think there's tremendous potential and market interest and that this is a necessary step for that economic impact to be generated."
"We're all excited to get something started down there. It's a huge development, not only for Hazelwood but for the region," added city councilman Corey O'Connor, who represents the neighborhood.
The work is beginning as up to $80 million in tax increment financing is being considered by the city and the county to support the infrastructure improvements. The TIF, the largest in the city's history, already has been approved by the city school district. Mr. O'Connor also expects his colleagues to sign off on it.
"I haven't heard any objections from other members so I think we should be in good shape," he said. "It's been going through the channels and there's been no bumps in the road so that's a good sign."
Under the TIF plan, 65 percent of the real estate tax revenue generated by the development would be used to repay self-financed debt Almono plans to incur. Because of the self financing, the city would not be at risk if the development doesn't generate enough tax revenue to pay off the TIF.
The proposed development on the last of the city's brownfields would feature more than 2 million square feet of office and research and development space, and as many as 1,300 units of housing in the form of townhouses, condominiums or apartments.
Almono also is proposing more than 26 acres of open space, including parks, trails and lanes dedicated to bicyclists. It also has plans to connect the development to the Hazelwood business district and neighborhood, which has fallen on hard times since the closing of the coke works in 1997.
Mr. Smith said three developers responded last month to a request for proposals to develop housing in the Hazelwood Flats section at the northern end of the proposed development. Mr. Smith did not have the names of the developers and said their proposals were still under review.
At one time, as many as 10 developers had expressed interest in the work. Mr. Smith attributed the lower number of formal proposals to the challenging nature of the site, the one farthest from Downtown. He said some developers indicated they would wait for the next phase of housing.
"Obviously, we hoped for more but I think the feedback we're getting from developers will help us evaluate where the best near-term opportunities are. On these large scale developments, any feedback you get helps you refine the plan. We have three qualified proposals and that's good. We will work to get the rest of the site activated," he said.
Mark Belko: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1262.