The Wilkinsburg Train Station Restoration Project

Even before Tracey Evans came to restore the Wilkinsburg Train Station as executive director of the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC), she urged the community to act. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a letter to the editor she penned in 2001 when she was a resident encouraging the community to save the building.

Evans forgot about the letter until she started working to restore the station in recent years, which the WCDC did with a slate of financing sources, including historic tax credits (HTCs). Now it’s full steam ahead for the Wilkinsburg Train Station, which held a ribbon cutting Sept. 24 to celebrate the completion of a four-year restoration.

The beaux arts style anchor building was built in 1915 and opened in June 1916. The structure was a $3 million improvement in its day, which is equivalent to $75 million today after adjusting for inflation.

The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 and, in the years after, signs of disrepair began to accumulate – vines grew across the façade. Graffiti covered its walls. Portions of the roof began to crumble and collapse, with chunks of sky visible from inside the old station’s walls.

The WCDC came into existence in 2008 and became part of Wilkinsburg’s Main Street Program in 2010, which allowed the organization to receive bigger grants. Beginning in 2015, the community made a reinvigorated push to revitalize the train station. That year, WCDC got a $1 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, which helps with redevelopments in southwestern Pennsylvania. Later, WCDC amassed approximately $175,000 in individual donations from around the nation.

When asked what the hardest part of restoring the Wilkinsburg Train Station was, Tracey Evans, executive Director laughs.

“Every single thing about the project,” Evans said. “People who have been doing this kind of work for decades have said this isn’t the biggest or the most expense, but was certainly the most complex in terms of funding sources.”

Evans worked with four different historic consultants during different aspects of the process just to secure HTCs.

Construction began in 2017. The building includes a skylight, patterned terrazzo and mosaic tile floors, polished stone pilasters and clock faces. Among its most distinct features is the marble, which complicated restoration. Three kinds of marble were used, approximately half of which needed to be shipped from the same place in Italy where it was first sourced more than a century ago. The marble restoration alone took one year.

Deep attention was paid to match the modern structure to its historic counterpart, including such efforts as analyzing paint chips to match colors.

Part of the task for Evans and WCDC was pulling together funding from more than a dozen sources for the restoration, which exceeded WCDC estimates as a nearly $7.5 million endeavor. The restoration was Evans’ first experience in real estate. In addition to the Richard King Mellon Foundation grant, the Allegheny Foundation, Hillman Foundation, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Wilkinsburg High School Alumni, Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, FNB Corporation, PNC Bank, Wilkinsburg Historical Society, The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the governor’s office, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County were among those also providing funding.

Evans and WCDC have worked toward using HTCs since the outset, receiving a $1.4 million federal allocation and, in July, a state-level HTC award of $300,000 from the Pennsylvania
Department of Community and Economic Development. TriState Capital Bank, a Pittsburgh-based entity, invested in the federal tax credits. As of early September, WCDC was seeking an investor for the state-level HTCs. The WCDC is in the process of seeking tenants for the restored train station, hoping a restaurant arrives on the main level.


Wilkinsburg Train Station

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