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Hazelwood’s historic Carnegie Library: Performance space? Fitness studio? Something else? | The Homepage

Residents brainstormed the future of the historic building in hopes of restoring and activating it again

The historic Carnegie Library of Hazelwood. Homepage file photo by JaQuay Carter

By Juliet Martinez, managing editor

Hazelwood residents and neighbors flocked to the second-floor classroom of Community Kitchen at 107 Flowers Ave. for the June 11 Greater Hazelwood community meeting. The launch of a planning process for the historic Carnegie Library sparked a lively discussion. The agenda also included a development activities meeting for Hazelwood Green.

Historic Hazelwood library

Donita Thomas, president of the Pittsburgh Economic and Industrial Development Corporation, and Rob Pfaffmann, lead architect with Pfaffmann and Associates, gave a virtual tour of the historic Carnegie Library of Hazelwood at 4748 Monongahela St.

Photos show that the building retains a lot of the character that some residents remember from frequenting the library when it was open. The ornate skylight is intact, a lot of the woodwork is present, and an apartment in the building offers a large, light-filled space. The auditorium’s windows are boarded up and graffiti marks the walls, but it has clear potential as a meeting place or performance space. Mr. Pfaffmann said one challenge would be making it wheelchair accessible.

The empty yard around the building could become public green space like a playground or another community use. The old sycamore trees at the end of the property (along Chatsworth Avenue) should be preserved, Mr. Pfaffmann said.

Photos of the roof showed it in poor condition. The slate is no longer usable at over 100 years old. The building has been abandoned since 2004 when the library moved to another building on Second Avenue. It has not been maintained, so now it needs a new roof and a lot of masonry work to prevent it from deteriorating beyond repair.

The cost to stabilize the structure — not restore it — is estimated at $2 million. The City of Pittsburgh owns the building, but will not put money into it without a plan for its future use and an owner being identified.

Mr. Pfaffmann and Ms. Thomas opened the floor to ideas about what neighbors would want the library to become if funds were raised to stabilize and develop it. Mr. Pfaffmann emphasized that he is not a developer, and this was merely a brainstorming exercise.

Suggestions from participants included using the building for STEM/STEAM programs for youth, a tae kwon do studio, a performance space, a small-business incubator, and a fitness studio. Several meeting participants encouraged the placement of signs or plaques on the building to educate visitors about its history.

Ms. Thomas said she grew up on Flowers Avenue and frequented the library as a child. She wants it to be restored and has taken the initiative to apply for grants to get the ball rolling. The goal is to bring it back for the betterment of Hazelwood, she said.

Mr. Pfaffmann said his firm will facilitate a second community engagement session for the Hazelwood Library project, focusing on gathering ideas for the building's reuse and exterior spaces.

Attendees suggested forming a steering committee with representation from the city and neighborhood. The team is waiting to hear back about a grant program and expected to find out in June.

Ms. Thomas said that the City Budget Engagement meetings, both in-person and virtual, are good times to let the city know that residents care about the historic Hazelwood library and would like it to be preserved. She encouraged all to attend the meetings if possible.

Hazelwood Green signage plan

Austin Gelbard from Hazelwood Green master developer Tishman Speyer and Jonathan Kamin from Goldberg Kamin and Garvin, LLP, presented changes to the preliminary land development plan for Hazelwood Green. Review the whole plan by visiting tinyurl.com/hazelwoodgreen-PLDP.

These changes included updates to signage sizing and lights, and updates related to the planned Steelers field. Tishman Speyer said proposed signage and lighting changes would not affect accessibility. Each project’s design would be unique and will developers to seek approval from the planning commission. Attendees discussed the importance of honoring the site’s history in any new development.

Development activities meetings are part of the public input process that the Department of City Planning requires for developers whose projects meet certain criteria. The developers must schedule the meeting with the help of the registered community organization or RCO; Hazelwood Initiative is the RCO for Greater Hazelwood.

For information on Planning Commission and Zoning Board meetings, visit pittsburghpa.gov/dcp/planning-commission.

Click to expand images.

Hazelwood Initiative updates and announcements

Nancy Noszka, Hazelwood Initiative director of real estate, announced that a ribbon-cutting and open house event will celebrate the completion of three brand-new single-family homes on Flowers Avenue on July 19 from 2 to 4 p.m.

An organization called the Better Block Foundation will be holding a pop-up activation event on the 4900 Block of Second Avenue (the former S&R Market site), with a kick-off of the community planning to occur at the July 9 community meeting. Learn more at www.betterblock.org.

The Neighborhood Investment Fund will open on July 8. Hazelwood Initiative distributes the rent from Propel School to residents through housing and basic assistance grants from this fund.

Pre-applications are now being accepted for the Gladstone Residences. Download one at www.gladstoneresidences.com.

Ursula Craig honored

Ursula Craig was honored by Jim McCue for 25 years of service and support for the Hazelwood Initiative Safe Halloween event.

Half-price transit fares

The Allegheny Go Program is open. People who have been receiving SNAP for at least three months are eligible to sign up to get half off their transit fares. See Page 7 for more information.

Mobile Market schedule change

The Giant Eagle Mobile Market will be closing a half hour earlier on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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