Community Profile: Wilkinsburg Borough
Photo Credit: Greg Sciulli
Located in east-central Allegheny County, Wilkinsburg Borough is a nexus of innovation and tradition. Travelling eastward on Penn Ave from downtown Pittsburgh takes you right through the heart of the historic Borough. Wilkinsburg neighbors Swissvale, Penn Hills, and Churchill, to name a few, and serves as a major stop along many daily commutes. Wilkinsburg’s beautiful architecture, rich history, proximity to the city, and active community make it a vital member of the region’s East End
In the 1800 and 1900s, Wilkinsburg was a bustling city much like its neighbors. Economic and social changes shifted the dynamics of the City over the decades, also creating opportunities for growth. New businesses and an active civic community are adding to the already energetic municipality that is currently looking to capitalize on development opportunities, while keeping the heart of the community, its residents and history, its number one priority.
According to Wilkinsburg Borough Council Vice President, and CONNECT Vice Chair Marita Garrett and Borough Code Enforcement Officer Eric Parrish, there have been many recent efforts to reduce blight within the municipality. Wilkinsburg, a city of beautifully constructed halls, churches, and residences is embracing its history in order to preserve the unique infrastructure. When asked about the most interesting features of Wilkinsburg, Parrish explained, “The thing that I love most about Wilkinsburg, honestly, is the structures; their age, architecture, beauty, and ability that we have to re-envision and reuse them.”
Through a partnership of the Office of Code Enforcement, Borough
Council, and community partners, Wilkinsburg has been able to utilize both traditional and new methods to combat blight. Renovations, a foreclosure registry, and investment in the Office of Code Enforcement have all contributed to the rehabilitation efforts that can be seen throughout the Borough. A prime example is the Wilkinsburg Station Restoration Project. Once completed, the train station will serve as a hub to that brings together Wilkinsburg’s downtown and residential areas.
A “dry” Borough until a referendum was passed in 2015 allowing the sale of alcohol, Wilkinsburg is welcoming new businesses and restaurants, as well as growing existing businesses. Garrett and Parrish both identify community involvement as central to the success of the Borough, with citizens regularly coming together to make decisions on important matters, including fracking in recent years. Garrett mentions that many of Wilkinsburg’s residences wear multiple hats by simultaneously owning businesses, participating in Council, and providing community resources. There are also strong non-profit organizations like the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation and Hosanna House that provide vital community services and contribute to the welfare of the local residents.