The Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh [HACP] got the go-ahead Thursday to begin making its new vision of affordable housing in the Hill District a reality. 

On Thursday, the City Planning Commission approved plans for a three-structure, 123-unit mixed-income development on Colwell Street as a part of the authority’s larger blueprint to redevelop Bedford Dwellings, the city’s oldest public housing community.

The 4.98 acre site sits south of Bedford Dwellings, and is meant to take in an unspecified number of households who will be relocated during the redevelopment.

“There’s folks that are anxiously looking forward to moving into a new unit. That’ll free up space for future phases of development,” said Joe Hackett, a principal at landscape architecture firm LaQuatra Bonci.

Last week, news broke that HACP won a competitive $50 million Choice Neighborhoods grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Under the plan, all 411 units in Bedford Dwellings will be completely demolished and rebuilt to make way for more than 800 mixed-income units on and around the existing public housing community.

The project will begin construction in September and is set to be completed by 2025. 

Plan for robots in Hazelwood gets nod

Commissioners also approved plans to turn part of a former brownfield site into Carnegie Mellon University’s new three-story, 150,000-square foot Robotics Innovation Center. 

The metal-and-glass research building will feature one and a half acres of “running room” for robotics testing. A large part of the “running room” will be an flexible outdoor research environment that will allow robotics engineers to see the effects different types of terrain have on their machines.

A rendering of the Robotics Information Center’s outdoor laboratory presented to the City Planning Commission on July 25.

“There might be moon rocks one day, and they might be planting things and doing urban agriculture research another day. It’s a really flexible outdoor research environment,” said Jennifer Askey, an associate principal at architectural firm Perkins Eastman.

Adjacent to the laboratory will be a drone cage and an agricultural zone, among other features. The building’s facade and fencing will heavily feature glass and art meant to engage the public.

“We want this to happen. Hopefully it’ll spur the next young minds to get into robotics research,” said Bob Reppe, CMU’s assistant vice president and university architect.

Earthwork on the project is set to begin in August and the university estimates that the building will be substantially completed by May 2025.

Affordable and workforce housing coming to Uptown

Turning to Uptown, commissioners also approved development of a new 51-unit, multi-use residential development on Fifth Avenue. Located on a currently-vacant lot, the development will feature 23 workforce units, 17 deeply affordable units and 11 market rate units.

“Deeply affordable” housing refers to units for households earning below 30% of the area median income. Workforce housing refers to housing that is affordable to the average worker. 

The development is a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit project and is “geared toward workforce-owners” according to Geoff Campbell, a principal at Rothschild Doyno Collaborative. 

Lucas Dufalla is an editorial intern with PublicSource and can be reached at 

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