Carnegie Mellon University wants to build a robotics playground on a brownfield site in Hazelwood.

Plans for a space where students can more freely experiment with robots were unveiled during the briefing section of a City Planning Commission meeting. In two weeks, the commissioners will hear any public testimony and decide if the project can proceed. 

CMU’s latest plan for the giant Hazelwood Green site calls for the creation of a 150,000 square-foot, three-story metal building with one and a half acres of enclosed “outdoor laboratory.”

The building is as much a public attraction — with plans to feature art along the enclosure — as a site for robotics experimentation. 

Bob Reppe, the assistant vice president and university architect for CMU’s campus development office, said that it will be “a space where robotics research is done that can’t be done on campus. Focused on ideas that can be developed and taken to market.”

Reppe said the development will include a drone cage and space for robotics testing for agriculture and other marketable fields. If the plans are approved, the project is expected to be substantially completed by May 2025.

“The research that takes place in here is really scrappy and requires a generous amount of space,” said Jennifer Askey, an associate principal at design firm Perkins Eastman. “It’s designed to continue Pittsburgh’s tradition of making things.”

Bedford Choice Neighborhoods vision materializes 

Commissioners also heard plans to develop sites in the Hill District that are part of the redevelopment of Bedford Dwellings, the city’s oldest public housing development. The plan, if approved, calls for the building of 123 mixed-income units across eight buildings on the 4.9 acres that make up the former Reed Roberts Housing site. Ninety of those units would be reserved as replacement units for residents of the current Bedford Dwellings, owned by the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh. 

Redevelopment of the public housing community has already started with ongoing construction of a 110-unit building ​​at another site, called City’s Edge, in the Bedford footprint. 

While all of this is taking place, the Housing Authority awaits news on its application for the highly competitive federal Choice Neighborhoods grant that would fund demolition of Bedford Dwellings and replacement with all new construction. The authority plans new construction regardless of the federal government’s decision. 

Commissioners will decide if they approve the plans in two weeks. 

Construction on the former Reed Roberts site would face unique challenges.

“Dramatic topography is an understatement for this area — 81 feet of grade change throughout,” said Joe Hackett, a landscape architect presenting the plans to the commissioners. “There used to be 10 or 12 buildings in there that have been demolished. … There are some remnant foundations. None of the slopes are naturally occuring.”

Commission hears Uptown proposal, approves Strip, Lawrenceville plans

Real-estate firm Beacon Communities previewed plans to build a 51-unit, mixed-income residential apartment complex between Fifth Avenue and Watson Street in Uptown. According to the presentation, 17 of the units will be “deeply affordable,” 23 units will be “workforce” priced with the other 11 market rate. The developer did not detail the former two categories.  

Commissioners approved plans for UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh to expand its Heart Institute. The approval allows the healthcare organization to build a colorful three-story, 50,000-square-foot building atop their mid-campus garage. Plans were previewed at the previous City Planning Commission meeting

Diane Hupp, president of Children’s Hospital, said the expansion was needed to accommodate growth and new technology upgrades.

Hupp said Children’s sees about 30,000 children and adults for various heart anomalies and conditions. She noted that Children’s cares for patients into adulthood. 

“Our care is ranked as one of the best pediatrics programs in the country,” she said. “Oftentimes, children and adults are referred here from other children’s centers in the country.”

Commissioners also approved plans to build two new multi-unit residential buildings in the Strip District. One of the sites is on Smallman Street, the former Gateway Paint & Chemical Company, and the other is on 30th Street, the former site of Hartman Metals Company. 

Together, the two developments will bring a total of 234 units in 56,500 square feet of space. Each building will be six stories high. The Hudson Companies, a real estate development company based in Hermitage, acquired the two properties in 2021 and 2022 for a total of around $6.2 million.

Mary Beth Johnson, the association president of a nearby multi-family condominium, commended Hudson Companies for being open and communicative but bemoaned the loss of her view that will come with these developments. 

Traffic changes and the emergence of amenities like dog-washing stations, she said, are “turning the Strip District into something we may not expect.”

Eric Jankiewicz is PublicSource’s economic development reporter and can be reached at or on Twitter @ericjankiewicz.

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Eric Jankiewicz is a reporter focused on housing and economic development for PublicSource. A native New Yorker, Eric moved to Pittsburgh in 2017 and has since fallen in love with his adopted city, even...