Brighter days ahead for Wilkinsburg
By Bill Zlatos
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation will get the money from the Allegheny Foundation, officials from both organizations said.
The gift is Allegheny Foundation’s biggest grant in recent memory, said Executive Director Matthew Groll. The Downtown-based foundation is chaired by Scaife, owner of the Tribune-Review.
The Allegheny Foundation helped finance restoration of Station Square, the Mexican War Streets and Manchester, Groll said, and Scaife was inspired during a drive through Wilkinsburg several months ago to continue restoration efforts there.”People see a little spark happening down the street,” Groll said. “Hopefully, the enthusiasm spreads and the community as a whole will rise up to meet the new enthusiasm.”
About two years ago, Ziegler’s group started a program to restore four houses in Wilkinsburg’s Hamnett Place neighborhood. The Sarah Scaife Foundation and Allegheny County each granted $500,000 to pay for that project.
History & Landmarks acquires the homes, oversees renovation and offers the homes for sale. The Hamnett Place houses have been sold. Renovations are under way and should be finished in six to eight weeks.
Walter and Rachel Lamory of Regent Square bought a turreted duplex on Jeanette Street for $95,000, one of the four buildings renovated.
“I know the perceived drawbacks of the area, said Rachel Lamory, 24, who attended nearby St. James School. “But I always saw the potential there. When I heard we had a chance to save these beautiful old homes I always admired, I felt we had to be part of it.”
Jack Schmitt and his wife Erin Cunningham paid $70,000 for a Queen Anne-style house that received $195,000 worth of renovations during the project’s first phase. The house has a scalloped dormer and gingerbread trim on the front porch.
“We spent a lot of time driving around, paying attention to the neighborhood,” he said. “We didn’t feel any hesitation whatsoever.”
The couple plans to buy the lot behind their home and the house next to it. They would raze the adjacent house and plant a vegetable garden. They want to set up a food stand and sell their food with a neighbor.
State Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, praised Scaife’s gift as a boost to the community’s morale.
“It’s exciting when you see this kind of financial commitment,” Ferlo said. “It builds credibility for the economic restructuring and activities within Wilkinsburg that are aimed at revitalizing the core of the community.”
Bill Zlatos can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7828.