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Wilkinsburg nods to past, as efforts to revitalize continue

| Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, 8:59 p.m.

Wilkinsburg will be “Celebrating the Past, Present and Future,” the theme of its 125th anniversary, with three days of events in October.

The borough will host a community reception, parade, a gala and a worship service as part of the commemoration.

The events are meant to unify residents in celebrating the history of Wilkinsburg, which is undergoing significant revitalization efforts, said Ralph Yearick, chairman of the publicity committee for the anniversary events and secretary of the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corp.

“I grew up here — born and raised. I saw the downward trend but I think we're also on the upward trend again,” he said.

Wilkinsburg was incorporated as a borough on Oct. 5, 1887. It had 15,930 residents in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Most historians agree that the village was named in honor of William Wilkins, a judge of the county courts and one of the founders and the first president of the Bank of Pittsburgh,” according to a historical account of the borough on its website.

The borough has been working to restore its tax base and population, which declined during the last third of the 20th century. Since 2006, more than $9.8 million has been invested in commercial revitalization efforts, said Tracey Evans, executive director of the development corporation. The borough has partnered with the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

“It's been a marvelously cooperative effort with the residents and the political leadership,” said Arthur P. Ziegler, Jr., president of the foundation.

Over the past 10 years, the foundation has invested more than $14 million in Wilkinsburg through real estate development, lending to nonprofits, grants to religious properties and housing and vacant-lot programs as part of the state's Neighborhood Partnership Program, said Michael F. Sriprasert, president of Landmarks Development Corp., the development subsidiary of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks.

Since 2008,the Wilkinsburg Restoration Program, which has been focusing on the Hamnett Place neighborhood, has included the restoration of 27 affordable housing units, one duplex and six single-family homes, as well as the establishment of a Housing Resource Center that hosts workshops on buying and restoring homes, he said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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