Our Work & History
What we do
HI is working on the following fronts to ensure low- and moderate-income long-term residents of Hazelwood benefit from the new investments to come.
In response to the imminent development of Hazelwood Green, HI is empowering existing residents by:
Acquiring 63 affordable rental units over the next 3 years in order to preserve them for permanent affordability (Hazelwood Affordable Rental Preservation Program)
Renovating houses for sale to low & moderate-income first-time buyers (Affordable HomeOwnership Program); 15 renovated to-date; 7 projected to be renovated this year
Creating & managing the Homeownership Incubator, a new 2-unit supported rental project to help Hazelwood renters become owners
Partnering with The Community Builders to develop 50 low-income housing tax credit units
Working with existing low/mod-income homeowners to address deferred maintenance & modernization needs in order to preserve equity
Fostering Economic Mobility
Constituent service is a constant in our community-based office. To increase our effectiveness, HI recently began a partnership with Circles Greater Pittsburgh to provide financial & homebuyer education to Hazelwood residents seeking to improve their economic circumstances.
HI is partnering with the developers of Hazelwood Green and the URA to ensure that 2nd Ave remains the focus of retail development in the community. To that end, we are now redeveloping 4 properties on the avenue, and have influenced the URA's RFP for 2nd Ave’s 4800 block to ensure a neighborhood-sensitive development. The goal - to create a walkable town center that will serve both existing and new residents of Hazelwood.
In 2016, HI launched the Neighborhood Investment Fund, a community-led small grants program used to sponsor organizations and small businesses that are working to improve the community. To date, we have granted nearly $100,000 to local groups and businesses. For the remainder of 2020, the grant program will be converted to a COVID Relief and will be used to provide rent & mortgage assistance and gift cards to grocery and general goods stores such as Target. Additionally, HI provides regular open forums for neighbors to build community, advocate for better services, and enjoy community-building and social activities to invest in Hazelwood’s most important asset: its people.
Hazelwood Initiative grew out of two groups, the first of which started in 1994 when over a dozen determined residents founded the Hazelwood Neighborhood Maintenance Task Force (HNMTF), which sought to address day-to-day maintenance issues in the community. They maintained vacant lots, secured abandoned houses, and picked up litter in the business district and along the river
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 the LTV Steel’s Coke Works that employed most of the community, but also increased risks to the health of the community. 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
HI's current office: 4901 Second Ave, 2nd Fl (above C&D's Kitchen)
Additionally, HI sought to secure buildings that once served community needs, but remained vacant and added to the neighborhood's blight. The purchase and restoration of the Burgwin School in 2014 into a Propel charter school, our agreement to buy over 60 rental units from one of the community's biggest landlords, and the current redevelopment of the former Gladstone School into affordable rental housing are just a few examples.
Today, HI is led by a board that reflects the diversity of Greater Hazelwood, with a staff dedicated to engaging the community and implementing a shared vision of equitable development. As a member of the Greater Hazelwood Community Collaborative (GHCC), HI joined with other community based organizations in the creation of of the Greater Hazelwood Neighborhood Plan, which was adopted by the City's Planning Commission in November 2019.
The group recognized that growing affordable housing and protecting neighborhood assets would be key to the community's revitalization. This led to HI becoming a community development corporation (CDC), with the increased capacity and partnerships to purchase and renovate residential & commercial properties, organize stakeholders to build consensus and guide planning, and ultimately put development in the hands of the community.
The ongoing development of Hazelwood Green (formerly Almono) on a 178-acre brownfield that once housed an LTV Coke Plant, along with a decline in affordable housing in Pittsburgh, has brought increased attention to Hazelwood from developers and business owners. Seeing that the community's lower priced houses could be vulnerable to speculation or further decay, HI sought funding from Pittsburgh's foundation community to purchase, rehab, and sell homes to Hazelwood residents with lower incomes to help them benefit from future development.
Guided by the Neighborhood Plan, our development principles, and our mission of "building a stronger Hazelwood through inclusive community development," HI is committed to an approach that avoids displacement and creates opportunities for residents and small businesses to benefit from the neighborhood's future growth.