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Community meeting: CMU, Pitt planning ultra-high-tech facilities for Hazelwood Green | The Homepage

By Juliet Martinez


The design for the entrance of the University of Pittsburgh BioForge facility, viewed from the corner of Lytle and Beehive streets. The biomanufacturing institute will be two stories tall, plus a penthouse. Bronze-colored metal panels will cover the building’s exterior. Photo courtesy of University of Pittsburgh

The well-attended June 13 hybrid community meeting introduced dazzling prospects of a technological future on Hazelwood Green, with promises of education and employment opportunities for Greater Hazelwood. Both Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh plan to build state-of-the-art facilities on lots near Mill 19.

Robotics Innovation Center

Students and researchers will develop robots that can help humans in a variety of ways at the 150,000-square-foot robotics research facility CMU plans for Hazelwood Green. These robots may assist with space exploration, home automation or farming. They could help with feeding people or helping lift and move them safely in healthcare settings.

The robotics research will be visible to the public in order to get young people excited about engineering and inspire some of them to pursue engineering careers.

The three-story facility will be designed for sustainability and built along universal design principles to be safe and welcoming to anyone who visits. It will sit on a lot just to the southeast of Mill 19, parallel to the railroad tracks and Irvine Street. It will have a high open bay and large testing area visible to the public. A tall, decorative fence around the testing area will allow anyone to watch from a safe vantage point as students put the robots through their paces.

The presenters from CMU emphasized the university’s engagement with Hazelwood goes back at least a decade, and stressed all the ways the planned facility is expected to benefit the neighborhood.

Since last winter, the CMU team has met one-on-one with community leaders, attended community meetings, convened smaller meetings with residents and applied for membership in the Greater Hazelwood Community Coalition. They have partnered with Hazelwood Local to bring science and technology programing for kids, youth and seniors to the concert series that started June 25 and continues July 30 and Aug. 27.

CMU has also partnered with Center of Life to bring their science, technology, engineering and math outreach activities to the Juneteenth celebration on June 16 at Hazelwood Green. The Center of Life summer camp students will also take weekly trips to the CMU campus where they will be able to use some of the facilities and learn more about science, engineering and technology.

The presenters said CMU is looking for more ways to partner with and support neighborhood residents and businesses. They mentioned that the robotics center will offer employment opportunities that do not require a college degree, such as machine shop operators and building management. They also envision patronizing local businesses for catering and coffee service and making meeting space available to the community. And they plan to commission a public art project for the site that will incorporate elements of the community.

They will also offer trades apprenticeship and training opportunities in the neighborhood and on the work site. To that end, Spartan Center is hosting a workforce opportunity event on July 28.

BioForge biomanufacturing

After last month’s presentation about the University of Pittsburgh’s commitment to the neighborhood, in June the team from Pitt presented the BioForge project itself in advance of the development activities meeting.

The 185,000-square-foot Pitt BioForge facility will focus on developing and perfecting manufacturing processes for therapies and cures for diseases that do not have effective treatments yet. Even though research scientists have devised potential treatments for a host of illnesses and conditions, mass production of these treatments remains out of reach because of the delicate nature of the manufacturing process. The purpose of the BioForge project is to address that problem in partnership with biotech firm ElevateBio.

ElevateBio is a leader in the development and manufacturing of gene and cell therapies and will occupy 70% of the BioForge building with Pitt researchers and students in the remaining 30%. The company expects to bring 170 full-time jobs to the facility and expressed a commitment that fully half of those will not require a college degree. The presenter from ElevateBio said the work is highly regulated and specialized, so they will train technicians to do the manufacturing. They will also employ maintenance and facilities workers and administrative staff.

The facility will have two stories and a penthouse, with bronze-colored metal panels on the exterior. The design includes bike racks, two small outdoor green spaces referred to as pocket parks and space for a public art project. Inside, the development and manufacturing of new therapies will happen in clean rooms. No animal testing will happen in the facility, according to the presenters.

As the design, engineering, permitting and zoning work proceeds, presenters said they were working on figuring out how BioForge can help Hazelwood residents further their education and get access to more inclusive community development and workforce opportunities.

Members of the team have met with the GHCC and focused on understanding what they called the resident experience. One of the concerns that has emerged revolves around traffic and construction management, so they said they are planning out the project to prevent problems for people who live and work in Hazelwood.

The team working on the BioForge facility sees it as the beginning of a biotech boom for Pittsburgh. Kinsey Casey, the university’s associate vice chancellor for economic development, said she expects other companies to follow because a trained workforce will be here ready to help them innovate.

Phipps Homegrown classes

  • Herb-infused oil and body butter workshop on Saturday, July 8, 1-3 p.m.

  • Vegetarian Jamaican Patty Cooking Workshop on Tuesday, July 11, 6 – 8 p.m.

  • Composting 101 (Virtual) on Thursday, July 13, 6 – 7:30 p.m.

  • Herbal spice and shrub workshop on Friday, July 14, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

  • Veggie Forward: Cookout Essentials on Thursday, July 20, 6 – 8 p.m.

  • Harvesting Techniques and Seed Saving Class on Thurs., Aug. 17, 6– 7 p.m.

Most of these classes are in person. For full details and to register, visit https://www.phipps.conservatory.org/classes-and-programs/for-communities/homegrown/homegrown-online-classes.


Juliet Martinez is the managing editor of The Homepage.

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