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City council tentatively OKs TIF plan for Hazelwood project

| Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, 12:25 a.m.

A vision to coax Hazelwood's economic transformation from a long-abandoned industrial center along the Monongahela River moved a step closer to reality on Wednesday.

Pittsburgh City Council voted to give preliminary approval to an $80 million tax-increment financing plan to help prepare the former steel mill site for $1 billion in development.

Councilman Corey O'Connor, D-Squirrel Hill, said it will be the largest tax-increment financing plan, or TIF, in the city's history if council gives final approval on Tuesday.

“It will be a monumentally landmark decision,” said Jim Richter, executive director of Hazelwood Initiative Inc., a community development group.

Pittsburgh Public Schools and Allegheny County Council previously OK'd the plan.

Almost two-thirds of new property tax revenue generated by the development would be used over 20 years to pay off bonds for the project, while the rest would go to the school district, city and county, said Tim White, vice president of the Downtown-based Regional Industrial Development Corp. RIDC is collaborating with four foundations to develop the 178-acre site under a partnership called Almono LP.

Today, the former LTV Steel Co. site along the Monongahela River generates about $150,000 a year in property taxes. Developers predict it will generate $20 million annually 20 years from now, White said.

The bonds would cover most of an estimated $133 million in needed infrastructure work. Almono has secured about $95 million, White said. Money from future land sales and the state's Development Assistance Capital Program could help eliminate the gap, he said.

“This will play out in phases, so we won't be spending (the $133 million) all right out of the gate,” White said.

White said the first phase of work could cost as much as $35 million. Grading work began this year and is expected to be completed by early next year, at a cost of $7.5 million.

Next year's work will include building a mile-long road through the heart of the sprawling development site. Construction of the first building could begin as early as next year but is more likely to occur in 2015, White said.

Tom Fontaine is a Trib Total Media staff writer.

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