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Proposal would dust off Wilkinsburg train station

| Thursday, Dec. 13, 2007

There's a proposal to bring new life to the Wilkinsburg train station, which has been vacant since the 1970s.

The board of the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County last month approved a request from the county's Department of Economic Development to apply for a $15,000 grant from the state Historical & Museum Commission.

"The funds will be used to hire a professional to evaluate what renovations are needed, and their costs, to restore the station," said Cassandra Collinge, assistant manager of the department's housing division.

That person also will be asked to do an environmental survey of the property and provide suggestions for re-use of the station, she said.

The station is located at Hay Street and Ross Avenue, on a site behind the CVS Pharmacy on Penn Avenue.

This is not the first attempt to renovate the station.

In 2004, a team of students from Carnegie Mellon University's H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management received a $10,000 grant from an anonymous contributor to conduct research regarding the station, including obtaining public suggestions for its use.

The students hoped to discover how the station could be used in a way that would benefit the community and boost the economy. Suggestions included a jazz museum, restaurant and cafe.

In 2005, architect Sylvester Damianos asked permission from the Wilkinsburg Municipal Authority/Wilkinsburg Borough Industrial and Commercial Development Authority to purchase the station.

Damianos said he could use the property for his offices, a community gallery and for a woodworking shop in the basement.

"We were definitely interested in doing the project, but found there were too many legal problems, because of a variety of ownerships, and we decided to drop out," he said.

However, several groups continued to express interest in having the station preserved and reused.

Among them are Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

"We have been interested in the station for 30 years, and am happy the county has allocated funds for an architectural/engineering study to determine its current condition and how to stabilize the building," said Arthur Ziegler, the foundation's executive director.

"Once that is achieved, perhaps we can market the building."

The Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh has listed the station as an historic site and offered assistance to any developer interested in restoring it.

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