By Sonya Tilghman, executive director of Hazelwood Initiative
Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe 2023 is already over. It flew by! Looking back, I am excited about what Hazelwood Initiative accomplished this past year in pursuit of our community’s North Star, “Development without displacement.”
We have a lot to celebrate
In 2023, we promoted housing security in Hazelwood by distributing close to $40,000 in Neighborhood Investment Fund grants to help residents pay their rent, mortgage and utilities. And we supported the food justice efforts of our community partners by hosting the Giant Eagle Mobile Market and actively participating in the Sarah Dixon Innovation Center grocery cooperative planning.
We planted our 700th neighborhood tree during a greenway planting event, and we held the first tree planting for the ICLEI/Resilient Cities Catalyst grant below the tracks to help keep our neighborhood cooler. We also closed out our ReLeaf Greater Hazelwood grant with an Earth Month tree planting at Lytle Land Playground.
We held garden volunteer days and workshops throughout the year with our new garden manager, Valerie Testa, and partner Jasmine Pope from the Phipps Homegrown program. And we launched the Duck Hollow feasibility study with Friends of the Riverfront.
We received an award of 20 air filters from the Mon Valley group Valley Clean Air Now. And the second Allegheny County Solar Co-op resulted in an additional Hazelwood household being awarded a free solar installation, for a total of eight.
Our monthly community meetings were lively and well-attended. We are grateful to the community members who gave their input on the University of Pittsburgh’s community engagement planning and Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Shared Prosperity.
We gave out 200 candy bags at Safe Halloween and helped put together an unforgettable Light Up Night.
In 2024, we are excited to distribute more air quality monitors through a grant from the University of Pittsburgh. This project will be led by longtime collaborator, Ph.D. student Abhishek Viswanathan, who will work directly with students at Propel Hazelwood and Three Rivers Village School.
In the real estate department, we broke ground on three new homes for affordable homeownership on Flowers Avenue, and we managed 67 permanently affordable rental housing units.
We have a new small business tenant, 1:11 Juice Bar, on the first floor of 4901 Second Ave., and Arts Excursions Unlimited will be moving into the “bunker” at 5125 Second Ave.
We unveiled two pieces of public art that Hazelwood residents helped inspire, “Braids of Hope” and “Crossing Beacon.”
We removed 100 tons of miscellaneous items from 4800 Second Ave., the former home of Josza’s Corner, and then conducted an architectural and engineering review.
This year, we will be gathering your input on the future of that historic building and planning six rehabs for affordable homeownership properties that we hope to put on the market in 2025. We are also planning $2 million in capital improvements through a grant from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.
Nearest to my heart is the opening this year of Gladstone Residences. When I came into this job in late 2015, I had no way of predicting the long and bumpy road we would walk to get to the groundbreaking. And now we are planning for tenants to move in around the beginning of summer.
This is an exciting time, and we are so grateful to everyone in Greater Hazelwood for being the reason we do what we do. Welcome to 2024!