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A 133-year-old railroad roundhouse in Hazelwood is on its way to becoming the Pittsburgh location of a global entrepreneurship platform for economic development.
Leaders of the regional foundations that are working to redevelop the area, known as Hazelwood Green, toured the roundhouse Monday and heard from its designer that the project is on track for completion by spring.
The area was once a sprawling steel-making complex on the Monongahela River.
“The first ribbon cutting at this site took place 133 years ago… oddly enough at the time of another recession in our nation’s history,” said Sam Reiman, director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
The roundhouse opened to service trains that were used to move steel and steel-making materials that were made in Pittsburgh to the rest of the world, Reiman said.
Then, the steel industry was the new economy of the Gilded Age that was financed in part by Thomas Mellon, whose grandson started the foundation that’s now playing a big part in the redevelopment of the site, Reiman said.
“Now, 133 years later thanks to OneValley our partner and the tenant for this site, this roundhouse will once again drive a new spirit of entrepreneurship,” Reiman said. “Only this time the people who call this place home will be seeking to create jobs for themselves and their neighbors.”
OneValley, formerly known as GSV Labs, is a Silicon Valley company that helps technology startups grow. It has what it calls innovation centers in San Mateo, Calif., and Boston, and chose Pittsburgh as its next location.
“They could have chosen any other location in the world and they chose Pittsburgh,” Reiman said.
OneValley also has plans to open another innovation center in Xi’N, China.
The company touts that its helped about 600 early-stage tech companies at its innovation centers and through an online platform it calls Passport.
“We believe that Pittsburgh is, and has been throughout its history, one of the strongest and most important innovation communities in the world,” OneValley CEO Nikhil Sinha said in a statement that was read Monday. “We are excited to connect Pittsburgh’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem to the global resources they need.”
Its choice of Pittsburgh is a signal to local leaders that their work to create a technology hub in the region is working, he said.
The center will offer educational programs, workshops and other events to foster small businesses. It also will have garden areas and an outdoor space that can be used by people who live in Hazelwood.
Anne Chen, principal of GBBN, the Pittsburgh architecture firm that designed the renovation, said the job was a challenge because the roundhouse had been designed for industry and not aesthetics.
It had no rain gutters or stormwater drainage and the concrete and steel that make up the building, which is really a series of structures that were modified throughout its years as a roundhouse, which was built to have 10 bays to move and service railroad engines, she said.
It last operated as a roundhouse about a decade ago, according to research done by Matt Conti, also with GBBN.
It was built by the Monongahela Connecting Railroad and owned by Jones & Laughlin Steel, which later became LTV Steel. The Hazelwood site closed in 1999 and was the last mill to operate in the city.
“Tremendous care has been taken to respect the heritage of this building,” Todd Stern, managing director of U3 Advisors, the firm that’s working on the overall development at Hazelwood Green, said.
The development is the latest at Hazelwood Green, the 178-acre site of the former mill, that was initially developed as Almono. The site is Richard King Mellon and Benedum Foundations and the Heinz Endowments.
Another development, Mill 19, houses the autonomous vehicle company Aptiv and Carnegie Mellon University’s Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute and Manufacturing Futures Initiative.
Plans are also in the works to develop the riverfront itself for recreation.
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