Foundation makes online plea to preserve Coraopolis Railroad Station
After nearly 40 years of seeing the Coraopolis Railroad Station deteriorate, the latest group of owners is starting an online financing campaign to raise $75,000 to restore the roof and kick-start its renovation.
Members of the Coraopolis Community Development Foundation have turned to the online fundraising site Indiegogo to raise money for the roof project. As of Thursday, they had $1,760 for the campaign, which ends May 3.
“I'd like to see us get off to a stronger start,” said Sam Jampetro, director of the Coraopolis Community Development Foundation. But he said foundation members must “be faithful to the vision.”
In 2006, Jampetro, his wife and three other couples bought the property as the Coraopolis Community Development Foundation, aiming to restore it for a café and reading room where artifacts of Coraopolis history can be displayed.
The project would cost between $1.2 million and $1.6 million. Jampetro said restoration experts will be needed to stabilize the building; volunteers might be able to complete interior work.
The project has stalled in part because “the economy has been difficult,” Jampetro said. The group has applied for Community Development grants, and most recently for an Allegheny County Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund grant of $250,000.
Having private and foundation funding in hand make a difference when officials decide which projects should be awarded government grants, said state Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline.
“The way government works today, you don't want to be the first money in; you want to be the last money in,” said Fontana, who has met with foundation officials and supports the train station project.
He said state funds eventually might become available through agencies such as the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, “especially if connected to a trail.”
The foundation members would like to have the renovated train station sit at a connection of the Montour Trail from the east and the proposed Ohio River Trail, which is to stretch 41 miles along the river through the rest of western Allegheny County and into Beaver County.
Jampetro pointed to a hole in the floor of the train station interior that resulted from the leaking roof. The hole wasn't there a few years ago.
“If we can't get the county and state to get behind us, I don't think (the building will be) here in another three or four years,” Jampetro said.
Designed by Boston-based architectural firm Shepley Rutan and Coolidge, the train station was finished in 1895 for the Pennsylvania and Lake Erie Railroad and is an example of Richardsonian Romanesque style. It was used for decades for passenger train service, including commuter trains to Pittsburgh. It has been vacant since Station Auto Parts, which took over the building after the railroad no longer used it, moved to another Coraopolis location in the late 1970s. Subsequent owners tried without success to develop the property.
Coraopolis resident Chris Rolinson, an assistant professor of photography and photojournalism at Point Park University, did a pro-bono video of the train station project that appears on the Indiegogo website. The film is “a way to benefit something in my community,” he said.
“Coraopolis has the potential to be a thriving community,” said Rolinson, 41.
Among the proposed projects for the borough is the planned Sports and Athletics Complex at Montour Junction at the eastern end of the borough near the Montour Trail.
Jampetro, pastor of the Anglican Charis247 Community Church in Coraopolis, said what will make the difference between current and past efforts to develop the property will likely be “sheer persistence.”
“We're just not going to give up on this project.”
Sandra Fischione Donovan is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.