By Juliet Martinez, Managing Editor
I want to shine a spotlight on Hazelwood Initiative's executive director, Sonya Tilghman and my colleague Dave Brewton, Senior Real Estate Director, for realizing a goal that took a lot of work and persistence. On Aug. 29, they finished the long process of buying 333, 337 and 341 Flowers Ave. from the Pittsburgh Land Bank. On Sept. 14 the URA approved a request for up to 245k in financing for construction soft costs for the project. (See Page 3 for more details.)
You may have heard that the Land Bank has had some difficulty moving vacant properties back onto the tax rolls. For his part, Dave rolled up his sleeves to problem-solve alongside the Land Bank's hardworking staff and ease the process for others.
As a result of their combined efforts, the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Sept. 14 took on a celebratory tone as several community development corporations and housing nonprofits received vacant property to develop.
I first heard about the Flowers Avenue project around the time I started at Hazelwood Initiative in 2021. Dave excitedly told me about the vision of building beautiful, spacious new homes for moderate- and low-income families in Hazelwood.
In spite of many setbacks the project has encountered, Sonya and Dave have steadfastly persevered.
I applaud their stick-to-itiveness because those months and years of toil will mean stability, safety and a brighter future for at least three Hazelwood families.
Owning one’s home is a game changer. It is a responsibility, yes, but also a source of security and autonomy. Pittsburgh architect Robert Pfaffmann designed these homes to be spacious, beautiful, energy efficient and easy to maintain so that the responsibility will rest a bit more lightly on the shoulders of the families who will live there.
In those homes they will have the freedom to paint and decorate however they want, plant vegetables and flowers, raise their children and create or build on lifelong connections with their neighbors and community.
No matter what kinds of development happen at Hazelwood Green, how property values change or how many university students look to Hazelwood for housing, the owners of those homes will be steering their own course in life.
That is development without displacement, a mission that all of us at Hazelwood Initiative dedicate ourselves to, even when doing so takes a lot longer than one expects at the outset.