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Corbett announces $10M in grants for Almono project in Hazelwood

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Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett answers questions from reporters after announcing $10 million in state grants for development of a 178-acre Almono property in Hazelwood on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014. The funding package includes a $5 million grant from the Economic Growth Initiative, formerly known as the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, and an additional $5 million from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
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Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (center left) walks to a news conference with members of his staff at the 178-acre Almono property in Hazelwood on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014. Corbett announced $10 million in state grants to support the development along the Monongahela River at the site of the former LTV Steel Corp.
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Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
A puddle reflects the inside of the shuttered Mill 19, once part of former LTV Steel Corp, as pictured in Hazelwood on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014. Ideas to repurpose the site into mixed office and manufacturing space are part of Almono's plans to complete $1 billion in development on their surrounding 178-acre property in next two decades. Along with riverside green space, development would include 1,400 housing units, 1.3 million square feet of office space and nearly 950,000 square feet of industrial space.

Before local developers can build a projected $1 billion in apartments, offices, retail shops and tech suites on the former LTV Steel Corp. site in Hazelwood, they need about $103 million in streets, utility lines and other infrastructure upgrades.

“There's huge interest in this site, tremendous interest in this site, from developers not only in the region, but across the country,” said Don Smith, president of the Regional Industrial Development Corp., which is managing the project. “Really, it's all just interest until we can give them some certainty that the site will be ready for their buildings to open.”

Gov. Tom Corbett on Wednesday announced $10 million in state grants to support development at the 178-acre Almono property along the Monongahela River.

The subsidy package includes $5 million from PennDOT and $5 million from the Economic Growth Initiative, formerly known as the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program.

The announcement marked the 13th time this year the Corbett administration has made an award from the program in Western Pennsylvania. A total of $38.5 million has gone to projects in Western Pennsylvania out of about $123 million statewide, according to the Office of the Budget.

Corbett said during a news conference that his redesign of the Economic Growth Initiative grant program in 2012 has focused on adding “metrics” to gauge job growth, economic impact and construction readiness.

The grants are made on a reimbursement basis and range from $500,000 to $5 million. Last year, the first round under Corbett's new rules, 58 projects received a total of $133 million.

In some cases, the money goes for redevelopment, Corbett said.

“You can't build anything until you build the infrastructure, and that's exactly why we're here today,” he said.

Other awards go to projects still in the planning phases, such as $5 million toward the Pittsburgh World Trade Center business park on nearly 195 acres of unused land at the Pittsburgh International Airport in Findlay. Others are expansions, such as $1 million for Allegheny General Hospital and $2 million for data centers at Iron Mountain, a records management firm in Butler County.

At the Almono site, Smith expects to put construction projects up for bids in the next six weeks.

The project will include residential, office and industrial space. Leaders view it as an opportunity to spur growth in a key but neglected location between Downtown and Oakland, whose economies rank as the second- and third-largest in Pennsylvania behind Philadelphia.

RIDC teamed with four foundations under the name Almono — a blend of the names of Pittsburgh's three rivers — to transform the former steel mill site.

The nonprofits bought the property in 2002 and made plans for more than $1 billion in development in the next two decades. When complete, it would include 1,400 housing units, 1.3 million square feet of office space and nearly 950,000 square feet of industrial space.

Dennis Yablonksy, president of the Allegheny Conference on Community and Economic Development, said without public investment, large-scale developments stall and private developers won't invest.

“It's too easy for developers to go into the suburbs and greenfield sites and build there instead,” he said.

“If we're going to revitalize places like Hazelwood, we have to be able to publicly and privately come together and do this.”

Staff writer Tom Fontaine contributed. Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8511 or [email protected].

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