Steel's future: The Hazelwood site means renewal for Pittsburgh

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One of the most promising sites in Pittsburgh, 178 acres where Jones & Laughlin once made coke in Hazelwood, got a green light Tuesday when the city planning commission approved a zoning change and preliminary land development plan.

The sprawling $900 million development along the Monongahela River is being spearheaded by the Regional Industrial Development Corp., local foundations and the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Within a week contracts for grading could be let, and development could begin as early as next year.

By the time the ambitious multiphase construction is finished, Pittsburgh's last brownfield site could hold more than 2 million square feet of office and research and development space and up to 1,300 units of housing.

Not only will it deliver jobs and renewal, but the so-called Almono project could also revive Second Avenue and old parts of Hazelwood. But that will require more support than a planning commission can give.

The project also needs $80 million in tax increment financing to build necessary infrastructure -- and that will require the approval of the city, the county and the school district.

It would be an investment with a big payback for Pittsburgh, and proof, once and for all, that there is indeed life after steel.

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