Housing Renewal Under Way in Wilkinsburg
Michael Sriprasert promised Wilkinsburg residents on Tuesday that they would have new neighbors next fall.
Mr. Sriprasert, director of real estate development for the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, is overseeing two new housing projects in Wilkinsburg worth almost $10 million.
“By this time next year, we’ll have 27 new families moving in,” he said.
He was one of 10 speakers representing a consortium of government agencies, foundations and financial institutions that have undertaken housing restoration projects in the borough’s Hamnett Place neighborhood.
The session to announce the two latest elements in the renewal plan was held at the new Landmarks Housing Resource Center on Rebecca Avenue.
“This investment will expand our ability to attract people back to Wilkinsburg,” Mayor John Thompson said.
The larger effort is an $8.6 million renovation of two early 20th century apartment houses. They are the Crescent Building, at Rebecca and Kelly avenues, and the Wilson Building, about a block away on Jeanette Street.
Both structures are in poor shape. A portion of the roof of the three-story Crescent Building, for example, has collapsed.
The two apartments have long been eyesores, officials said.
“If we can restore the Crescent Building, that will build belief in Wilkinsburg,” said county Councilman William Robinson, D-Hill District. His council district includes Wilkinsburg.
When work is completed next year, the two buildings will have a total of 27 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Each building will have a community room, laundry area and computer lab. Hosanna House will provide support services to tenants, who must meet income guidelines.
The second project, budgeted at slightly more than $1 million, will restore three abandoned but architecturally significant homes on Jeanette Street and Holland Avenue. When renovations are complete, those homes will be for sale to buyers who have earnings no greater than 120 percent of the area’s median income.
The apartment project also involves acquisition and demolition of three neighboring structures. It is being funded by loans and grants from Allegheny County’s Department of Economic Development, funds raised by the sale of Historic Tax Credits, private dollars from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh and federal tax credits administered through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.
Money for restoration of the three homes is being provided by Allegheny County and the Scaife Foundations.
Four other homes in the neighborhood have been renovated recently with help from the county and the Scaife Foundations. They have been sold and four families have moved in, Mr. Sriprasert said.
The restoration costs for the houses and the apartments are more than $300,000 per unit, about four times the median cost of a home in Wilkinsburg.
Those costs are high because of the dilapidated condition of the structures and because restoration, which often is more expensive than demolition and new construction, will save architecturally interesting buildings, Mr. Sriprasert said. The project is being funded in part with historic tax credits, which means it has to meet strict criteria for restoration, he said.
Supporters hope the restoration projects will produce a ripple effect, Mr. Sriprasert said, encouraging businesses and homeowners to invest private dollars in the neighborhood.
Tuesday morning’s program also marked the grand opening of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation’s housing resource center. It is located at Jeanette Street and Rebecca Avenue in a former Packard dealership.
It will provide workshops and programs dealing with home improvements and resource-saving “green” projects for Wilkinsburg residents,
The Landmarks Housing Resource Center will have a community open house for people in the neighborhood at 11 a.m. Saturday. That event will be followed at 12:45 p.m. by an inaugural workshop on the topic of restoring vacant lots as gardens and green spaces.
The cost for the workshop is $7. To register, call 412-471-5808, ext. 527, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.