By Juliet Martinez
The Jan. 9 community meeting drew a standing-room-only crowd to Community Kitchen’s second-floor classroom. The in-person meeting started half an hour early, with pizza and sodas served at 5:30. So many people came that they doubled the pizza order. More than 20 youth football players and parents came to voice their concerns about the Steelers’ planned sports complex on Hazelwood Green. And participants had an emotional discussion about the community’s housing needs in light of a planned housing development on the 4800 block of Second Avenue.
At the end of the meeting, outreach and sustainability director Tiffany Taulton announced she is leaving Hazelwood Initiative for another job. She received a warm and enthusiastic ovation, lots of good wishes and more than a few hugs.
4800 block affordable housing
The Community Builders, a nonprofit affordable housing developer, presented their redesign for a planned mixed-use, mixed-income apartment building. It will be on the east side of the 4800 block of Second Avenue. They got negative feedback on the design in 2022, so they held three meetings in Hazelwood to get a better idea of residents’ preferences.
The four-story, 35-unit development will have 22 project-based vouchers. This will give people without a Section 8 voucher the chance to apply for subsidized rent. Five units will be fully accessible people with for mobility, hearing or vision disabilities. One unit will be accessible only for hearing and vision disabilities.
The developer said they planned for 28 one-bedroom units, six two-bedroom units and one three-bedroom. But community members asked for more two- and three-bedroom units. The Community Builders is working on reconfiguring the design.
Even so, meeting participants said they are disheartened by the high number of one-bedroom apartments in the design. Families need two, three or more bedrooms. But the lack of larger affordable rental units means many families must find housing outside the neighborhood.
The senior project manager reiterated that they are working on including more two-bedroom units but said the Low-Income Tax Housing Tax Credit program has a mandatory minimum number. They must balance that with construction costs and the community’s need for larger units.
Pastor Tim Smith, CEO of Center of Life, said the project has gone through an extensive public input process, and the plan reflects what neighbors want.
District 5 City Council member Barb Warwick said she recently met with all the groups creating new affordable housing in the neighborhood. Some are building rental units; others are building homes. She indicated that the 4800 block project does not have a lot of room for families, but other neighborhood development projects do.
Steelers sports complex
The Steelers Charities announced plans for the complex in December. A large group of coaches, players and parents from Hazelwood Cobras came to make sure their voices were heard as the plan goes forward.
Representatives from Hazelwood Green developer Tishman Speyer and Steelers Charities said the sports center will be near the corner of Hazelwood and Second avenues. Construction should finish in 2025. The presenters hope to make Hazelwood a year-round sports destination.
They want to help kids get active with competitive sports and health, resilience and skill-building programs. The Steelers have a commitment to safety education for coaches, teams and players, they said.
Cobras head coach James Cole said he wants the complex to benefit Hazelwood kids and families. He encouraged the partners to hire from the neighborhood to keep families from being displaced.
Hazelwood Initiative strategic plan
The Hazelwood Initiative board and staff spent much of last year working on ways to advance the Greater Hazelwood Neighborhood Plan. The strategic plan they developed defines the organization’s role in Hazelwood. They are getting back to their roots by expanding their environmental health and justice work while continuing to preserve and create affordable housing.
The community development corporation highlighted three focus areas: neighborhood, justice and capacity.
The neighborhood category focuses on development without displacement. The organization maintains 67 affordable rental units, plus another 43 when Gladstone Residences opens later this year. They also run a discount home repair program and help low-income people buy homes. They also bought key commercial properties in the neighborhood and steward important assets like Propel School and Gladstone.
The justice category focuses on Hazelwood residents’ right to live in a healthy, beautiful and climate resilient neighborhood, and to have a say in its development.
The organization holds public meetings and advocates for better air quality, more renewable energy, and safer, more efficient transit and mobility. They also protect the greenway and promote community gardens for health and food security.
Executive director Sonya Tilghman said capacity includes keeping the organization financially healthy and running well. It involves staffing, funding and strategic partnerships. And developing and training new board members and keeping the bylaws up to date.
Participants then looked over posters that detailed the activities associated with each category. They placed stickers on ones they liked, loved or had questions about.
Hazelwood Initiative plans to solicit more community input on the plan through an online interactive survey.