By Todd Miller
There was a time when steel mills dotted the banks of Pittsburgh’s three rivers and stretched for miles beyond the city limits along the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers. One of the few remaining structures from the era when heavy manufacturing dominated the region’s economy is Mill 19 of the former Jones & Laughlin Steel. The structure was built around 1943 and was where J&L manufactured 10” bar steel. When LTV Steel took control of the building in the 1970s, it was used to store coke oven brick.
Mill 19 is one of two original buildings from the former mill site (a railway roundhouse being the other), which is located at Hazelwood Green, a 178-acre parcel in Pittsburgh’s Hazelwood neighborhood that runs along Second Avenue from Glenwood Rail Yard to the Hot Metal Bridge and is also bordered by the north shore of the Mon River. It is the last large remaining brownfield site in the City of Pittsburgh.
Mill 19 is just over three miles from Downtown Pittsburgh and is also located near the campuses of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and the University of Pittsburgh. It has easy access to bike trails, and the site is also served by Port Authority bus route 57, making it convenient to workers who prefer alternatives to driving a car to the office.
The building is 1,500 feet long and 110 feet wide. The original structure remains intact and occupies 12.5 acres – a fraction of the total site – which can accommodate up to six buildings. Mill 19 is owned and is being developed by the Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern Pennsylvania (RIDC), a private, not-for-profit organization that catalyzes and supports economic growth through real estate development and the financing of projects that advance the public interest.
The project began three years ago, and the building’s first occupants moved in this past June. Organizations calling Mill 19 home are Carnegie Mellon University’s Manufacturing Futures Initiative and Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute, as well as Catalyst Connection, a private not-for-profit organization that provides consulting and training services to small manufacturers in southwestern Pennsylvania. This fall, another organization is likely to announce that it will become a tenant. A second building (Phase B) is under construction, and there are plans to construct a third building.
“Mill 19 is the coolest building in Pittsburgh,” said Don Smith, RIDC’s President. “That’s because it’s a unique juxtaposition of our past and future.”
With assistance from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Richard King Mellon Foundation, RIDC was able to keep the massive steel superstructure intact when executing its “building within a building” concept, keeping the trusses and columns exposed to help the facility’s tenants and visitors alike appreciate the building’s magnitude.
Smith and his team also made use of mill artifacts by converting I-beams into swings and using sections of the mill’s concrete floor as part of the landscape, which includes a South Porch with seating made from steel beams and concrete salvaged from the original building.
According to Tim White, RIDC’s Vice President of Development, “The South Porch space combines the remnants of old machinery foundations with thoughtful landscaping and a stage for future events.” Additional features that make use of original materials include stormwater basins that contain crushed concrete made from the mill floor. The building is designed to LEED Gold standards and is estimated to be 35% more energy-efficient than the current code requires.
Other amenities include a quarter-mile-long loggia, as well as a stage for outdoor performances, and bikeable and walkable paths that re-connect Hazelwood to the Monongahela River and to other city trails.
Commitment to community involvement is something that RIDC has emphasized from the project’s beginnings when they were doing the site preparation and initial site infrastructure, having held more than 200 community meetings to keep residents informed about the development’s plan and progress.
With dramatic growth of new technology companies in the region in fields such as robotics, autonomous vehicles and biotech, combined with CMU’s role in developing companies and producing graduates to work in those businesses, there is strong demand for space in proximity to the university and the current and future workforce it develops. As technology companies launch in Pittsburgh or re-locate to the area, Smith is optimistic about Mill 19’s contribution to the region’s economy.
“By developing Mill 19, we restored what the steel industry left behind and are helping to reverse economic decline and urban decay.”
RIDC Develops Properties; Transforms Communities
RIDC catalyzes and supports economic growth through high-quality job creation, real estate development and financing of projects that advance the public interest – developing real estate to capture emerging and existing growth opportunities across diverse industry sectors.
RIDC’s portfolio is more than 7 million square feet. RIDC manages buildings or owns land in 11 RIDC parks with three additional freestanding building projects. RIDC owns and manages several multi-occupancy buildings in its portfolio, enabling flexibility and expansion for growing companies. RIDC’s sites include:
- RIDC O’Hara
- Thorn Hill Industrial Park
- Park West Industrial Park
- Keystone Commons
- City Center of Duquesne
- Industrial Center of McKeesport
- Pittsburgh Technology Center
- Neshannock Business Park
- Lawrenceville Technology Center
- RIDC Mill 19
- Innovation Ridge
- RIDC Westmoreland
- Beaver Industrial Manor