State grants will help clear blight in Westmoreland, build new park in Wilkinsburg
Gov. Tom Wolf's office announced nearly $5.4 million in economic development grants Wednesday, including funding for Westmoreland County authorities to clear or clean up blight.
The 22 Keystone Communities grants, administered through the Department of Community and Economic Development, included $200,000 for the Redevelopment Authority of the County of Westmoreland and the Westmoreland County Land Bank to buy, demolish and/or rehab blighted properties throughout the county.
April Kopas, Redevelopment Authority executive director, said the grant will go toward properties the land bank owns in Vandergrift, Trafford, Mt. Pleasant, South Greensburg, Derry and Herminie, bringing the total project budget to $622,200.
“Roughly half of the properties will be demolished and half will be either stabilized for private investment/rehabilitation or will be rehabilitated with other public funds for resale,” she said.
Some of the properties being evaluated are on Broad Street in South Greensburg, Main Street in Mt. Pleasant, Washington Avenue in Vandergrift and North Chestnut Street in Derry.
The key, Kopas said, will be making sure that there is investment in the properties after they've been cleared or stabilized; the Redevelopment Authority was working with local officials on ways to foster community development.
“This grant will be a significant factor in the Redevelopment Authority's continuing effort to remove blight throughout Westmoreland County,” authority Chairman Donald Kinosz said in a statement.
Another $475,000 in grant funding will go to Wilkinsburg, Allegheny County, for a park the borough is working to establish along Ardmore Boulevard. There, crews have cleared abandoned and blighted houses overlooking Ardmore Boulevard and a long retaining wall at the eastern “entrance” to the borough, and officials plan to rehabilitate the wall, then add a sidewalk, lighting, benches and green space to the newly cleared hillside.
“As the Ardmore wall price kept going up and up the more we evaluated, we were afraid we wouldn't have funding to do the other things,” said borough manager Donn Henderson. “This gives us a lot more options.”
Now, he hoped the park could run nearly the entire block and include the intersection with Penn Avenue, where a deteriorating copper-clad statue of Abraham Lincoln — another project to be tackled, Henderson said — marks the road's designation as part of the cross-country Lincoln Highway.
The Keystone Communities grant will nearly double the project's budget to about $1 million, Henderson said.
Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6660, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @msantoni.