Menu Contact/Location

Category Archive: Education

  1. Old Economy Receives $241,000 State Grant

    Monday, October 18, 2010
    By Marylynne Pitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    The Friends of Old Economy Village will receive a $241,000 grant from the state of Pennsylvania to upgrade facilities, develop a marketing plan and hire education staff for tours at Old Economy Village in Ambridge, Beaver County.

    Sen. Elder Vogel Jr., who announced the grant today, said everyone was surprised when the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission announced 11 months ago that it would stop funding educational programs at Old Economy, the third and last home of a 19th-century Christian communal group called the Harmony Society. The Harmonists farmed, ran textile mills, made their own furniture, silks, clothing, pottery and wine. Old Economy is a National Historic Landmark with outstanding architecture.

    After suffering a $15.7 million cut in its budget, the historical and museum commission closed Old Economy Village in November of 2009. In April, a dedicated group of 300 volunteers signed a licensing agreement with the state and reopened the six-acre site, conducting tours, staffing the facility on the weekends and answering visitors questions.

    “We want to make sure that Old Economy Village thrives so that future generations can learn about this hidden gem in Beaver County,” said Mr. Vogel.

    Fritz Retsch, a board member of the Friends of Old Economy, said the village “was placed in a very difficult financial position by the state, making it extremely difficult to carry out our mission. Through the combined efforts of increased fundraising and this grant obtained by Sen. Vogel, we are in a much better position to keep operations running smoothly and efficiently.”


  2. Housing Renewal Under Way in Wilkinsburg

    Thursday, October 14, 2010
    By Len Barcousky, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    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 marylu@phlf.org.

    Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10287/1094983-56.stm#ixzz12LBsaQs1

  3. Projects Pump $10 Million into Wilkinsburg Homes

    By Chris Ramirez
    PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
    Wednesday, October 13, 2010
    Last updated: 8:02 am

    Jay Willis plays the saxophone during a dedication of a mural Tuesday evening in Wilkinsburg. The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corp. dedicated the mural as part of the organization's public art program to preserve, restore and enhance the borough's appearance through artistic expression. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review

    With gaping holes from its broken windows, the fenced-in brick building at Rebecca and Kelly avenues in Wilkinsburg is an eyesore, one that’s too big to ignore.

    People moved out of the three-story fixer-upper a long time ago, before Vanessa McCarthy-Johnson or anyone else can seem to remember. Pigeons and blackbirds live there now.

    “When a kid walks by these buildings and sees that … no one cares about it, it tells them adults don’t care,” said McCarthy-Johnson, a borough council member. “Youths need to see things moving on and improving. They need to see things turn around.”

    They soon will.

    A public-private partnership on Tuesday detailed plans to invest $10 million in house-restoration projects in Wilkinsburg.

    A total of $8.8 million will pay for renovating two early 20th century apartment houses — the Crescent Building at Rebecca and Kelly, and the Wilson Building on Jeanette Street.

    Borough officials and investment groups say restoring housing would be key to turning around the neighborhood, which has been blighted by crime and struggling for a defined economic blueprint since the demise of the steel industry in the 1970s and ’80s.

    About 19,000 people live in Wilkinsburg, where unemployment is about 9 percent. Nail salons, barber shops and mom-and-pop businesses line most of its main thoroughfare, Penn Avenue, offering little variety or chance for jobs.

    “This is a huge investment that we hope will eventually attract more new families to move here,” Mayor John Thompson said.

    The two buildings will house 27 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Each apartment building will have a community room, laundry area and computer lab. Hosanna House, a community center and social services agency in Wilkinsburg, will provide support services to tenants.

    The project, which includes acquiring and demolishing three neighboring structures, is being paid for with loans and grants from Allegheny County, Historic Tax Credit Equity, Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh and federal stimulus money that Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation is administering.

    Work on the apartment buildings is expected to wrap up next year.

    A second project — paid for by Allegheny County and the Scaife Foundations — will restore three vacant homes at Jeanette and Holland Avenue for $1 million. Once they are renovated, they will be sold to buyers.

    “Affordable housing shouldn’t ever be difficult,” said Brian Hudson, executive director for the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. “This partnership will make homeownership possible for a lot of people.”

    Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation President Arthur Ziegler is seeing to it that new life is breathed into the Crescent Building at Rebecca and Kelly avenues in Wilkinsburg. The early 20th century apartment house is one of two such buildings in the community that will be renovated. Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review

    Last year, TriState Capital Bank pledged $1.8 million over six years to help Wilkinsburg continue its housing renovation and development projects.

    “Positive change is happening in Wilkinsburg,” TriState President A. William “Bill” Schenck III said. “And it’s happening because people have said they want it to happen and are behind what’s going on here.”

    The inside of the newly renovated Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation's housing resource center in Wilkinsburg, formerly a Packard dealership, will house a sculptor. The center will provide workshops and programs dealing with home improvements. A neighborhood open house is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, with a workshop on restoring vacant lots as gardens and green spaces. Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review

    Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation yesterday opened its housing resource center, located in a former Packard dealership in Wilkinsburg. It will provide workshops and programs dealing with home improvements. A neighborhood open house is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, with a workshop on restoring vacant lots as gardens and green spaces.

  4. Wilkinsburg Housing Restorations to Total $10 Million

    By Chris Ramirez
    PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
    Tuesday, October 12, 2010
    Last updated: 2:37 pm

    A public-private partnership today detailed plans for $10 million in house-restoration projects in Wilkinsburg.

    A total of $8.6 million will be used to renovate two early 20th century apartment houses — the Crescent Building at Rebecca and Kelly avenues and the Wilson Building on Jeanette Street.

    “This is a huge investment that we hope will eventually attract more new families to move here,” Mayor David Thompson said. He spoke at a news conference to spotlight the new projects and mark the grand opening of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation’s housing resource center in Wilkinsburg.

    The two buildings will house 27 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Each building will have a community room, laundry area and computer lab. Hosanna House, a community center and social services agency in Wilkinsburg, will provide support services to tenants. Work on the buildings is expected to wrap up next year.

    The second project aims to restore three vacant homes at Jeanette and Holland Avenue for $1 million. When they are renovated, they will be sold to buyers who earn 120 percent or less than the area’s median income.

    Money for restoration of the three homes is being funded by Allegheny County and the Scaife Foundations.

  5. Wilkinsburg to Begin $10 million in Housing Renovations

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010
    By Len Barcousky, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    A public-private partnership today unveiled plans to do housing restoration projects in Wilkinsburg worth almost $10 million.

    “This investment will expand our ability to attract people back to Wilkinsburg,” Mayor John Thompson said after the announcement.

    He was one of 10 speakers from government agencies and businesses that have undertaken re-use projects in the struggling borough of 19,000. The session was held at the new Landmarks Housing Resource Center in Wilkinsburg.

    The larger effort announced today is an $8.6 million complete 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.

    When work is completed next year, the two buildings will have 27 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Each will have a community room, laundry area and computer lab. Hosanna House, a community center and social services agency in Wilkinsburg, 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 renovation work is complete, those homes will be for sale to buyers who have income 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 funded by Allegheny County and the Scaife Foundations.

    This 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 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. Those interested should call 412-471-5808, extn. 527, or e-mail marylu@phlf.org to register.


  6. $16M Separates Options for City’s Public Schools

    By Jodi Weigand

    Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

    The city school district’s proposed 2011 capital budget includes projects at eight schools.

    Pittsburgh Public Schools board members were presented two options Tuesday: the full capital program totaling $64 million and a $48.4 million downscaled version that includes only vital improvements at Arlington, Brashear, King, Knoxville, Northview, Oliver, Perry and Westinghouse.

    The full-scale option includes consolidating Arlington PreK-2 and Arlington 3-8 at a cost of $29.5 million.   It calls for the demolition of the 3-8 building and constructing a building on the site to house K-8 students.

    A scaled-down $14.2 million version would cover maintenance at the 3-8 building and incorporating a PreK program there.

    The board was offered a less-costly version of its proposed career and technical education program at Oliver High School at a reduced cost of $13.4 million.  A version nearly double the cost would renovate existing labs into state-of-the-art facilities.

    To fund the projects, the district will seek debt service through two federal programs that would allow it to borrow at a 20 percent cheaper rate per year than it has now.

  7. Vocational Training Center Opens in Larimer

    Auto body shop owner will train budding mechanics in 14,500-square-foot facility
    Friday, October 01, 2010
    By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    Mike Fiore and his son, Michael, expect Mike's Auto Body and Vocational Center in Larimer to be fully operational by early next year. Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette

    Mike Fiore stood behind a podium Thursday morning, with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to his left, and said, “We finally got here.”

    Mike’s Auto Body and Vocational Center — a dream that Mr. Fiore began chatting about with his son Michael four years ago — officially opened with a ceremony on the Meadow Street site in Larimer on Thursday. It will be fully operational by early next year, when Mr. Fiore expects to enroll his first class of mechanics for certification training, he said.

    Mr. Ravenstahl called the training center the first substantial private investment in the neighborhood in 40 years. Mr. Fiore’s shop specializes in collision repairs and custom body work. He has run his business in Larimer for 40 years and trained young mechanics, but he had to take them off-site for some instruction. The new 14,500-square-foot vocational center will keep them on-site for hands-on and classroom work.

    Mr. Fiore said he hopes 36 will graduate each year, certified in welding, spraying paint, diagnostics and other skills.

    The $1.8 million project, with investment from the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the Small Business Administration and Fidelity Bank, will employ 10 people full time and has the potential to join other businesses in retrofitting gas-burning cars into electric cars.

    Mr. Ferlo said that while multi-million dollar projects get most of the attention, “we never lose sight of the importance of small businesses and the cumulative total of their benefits.”

    Tom Link, manager of the URA’s business development center, said small business is responsible for 70 percent of new job creation.

    Mr. Ravenstahl said the training center “is a seed for future growth,” and that, with the new Target store being constructed nearby in East Liberty, “shame on us if we can’t figure out how to spread investment throughout the Larimer community.”

    Meadow Street is a strategic corridor because it runs through Larimer and into Highland Park and East Liberty.

    Mr. Ferlo, a URA board member, said the URA would like to buy several properties directly across the street from the vocational center in order to develop a retail and housing link.

    Already, the vocational center has been used as meeting space for Highland Park neighborhood advocates, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Larimer Green Team and ward leaders.

    Mr. Fiore said he advanced his idea to a lot of people and that many weren’t encouraging.

    “A lot of folks said, ‘wonderful idea,’ and walked away,” he said. “But my son and his wife [Michael and Chrissy Fiore] were nonstop support. And Jim Ferlo. He kept after me through all the paperwork, ‘C’mon, we’re going to get this done.’ We’ll get through all the hassles.’

    “And we did it.”

  8. History Festival to Mark East Liberty’s Past

    First-time event to highlight area’s change, influence
    Friday, October 01, 2010
    By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    In this photo taken in the 1890s, Civil War veterans participate in a reunion in front of a building on Penn Circle South that is still standing in East Liberty. The past of the East End/East Liberty area will be celebrated during Saturday's first-ever East Liberty History Festival. Courtesy of the East End/East Liberty Historical Society

    Public knowledge of East Liberty’s past is stuck on urban renewal, high-rises and crime. But that era was a blip.

    East End history buffs hope to put the past in perspective Saturday at the East Liberty History Festival, a first-time event in a neighborhood of firsts.

    What most people don’t know about East End history — with East Liberty at its hub — would overflow the parking lot at Eastminster Presbyterian Church, but the day-long event of the East End/East Liberty Historical Society has been designed to fit there, for free, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

    From Indians and traders to the first immigrant settlers, the festival will highlight the progression of development and industrial change that brought unparalleled prosperity to the area. In a recent Arcadia “Images of America” publication, the title “Pittsburgh’s East Liberty Valley” was chosen to encompass the breadth of East Liberty’s influence.

    Historical society members who put the book together said many images that would today be in Shadyside or other adjacent neighborhoods were then described as East Liberty.

    “On the old postcards, East Liberty went all the way up to Fifth Avenue,” said Marilyn Evert, a member of the historical society and director of development at Homewood Cemetery. When East Liberty began its slump in the 1970s, she said, “people began to disassociate themselves.”

    Al Mann, a retired chemical engineer from Highland Park, has been at the helm of planning the festival for the past year as the society’s president. In a bag behind the driver’s seat of his car, he has been carrying around items for display, among them a large aluminum mold of an Easter bunny.

    The mold was used at Bolan’s Candies in East Liberty, the first of the family’s several stores, open on Penn Avenue from 1918 until several years ago.

    “We have a lot of firsts,” said Mr. Mann. The first commercial oil refinery in the nation was in Highland Park, and the society has the papers to prove it. The first radio broadcast of a church service was from Calvary Episcopal in Shadyside in 1921. The nation’s first drive-up gas station was at Baum Boulevard and St. Clair Street. Pittsburgh’s first traffic light was at Highland and Penn avenues.

    Festival highlights will include re-enactments of processes developed by industrialists who lived or did business in the East End.

    Charles Honeywell, executive director of the historical society, will demonstrate iron and aluminum production using small furnaces. “The blast furnace will produce iron from iron ore, coke and limestone, just like the big ones. Superheated 3,000-degree iron will pour out into a mold that people can see.”

    Aluminum will be melted in a small crucible furnace and poured into medallion molds with street car emblems. Those will be sold to the public.

    Bus tours throughout the day will take people to points of interest that include the Highland Park reservoir, a Negley family burial marker, grand churches, the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater and a house that encases a log cabin built in 1794.

    Exhibits will show the historic transitions of Calvary and St. Andrew’s Episcopal churches and a wall of fame reproduced from panels in the Kelly-Strayhorn. The photos of performing artists and other celebrities attest to the role the East End played as a breeding ground for the entertainment industry.

    Ms. Evert said her interest stems from working and worshipping in the East End. She lives in Fox Chapel.

    When the society formed in 2002, she said, it was in part to interest people in the East End’s future.

    “The idea was that if people became aware of their history and where they came from, that would be conducive to development. It has such an extraordinary history. It’s unbelievable the things that came out of this one place.”

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633