Restoration of the historic Wilkinsburg Train Station keeps chugging along with the selection of Pittsburgh’s MacLachlan Cornelius & Filoni (MCF) as architect.

The station was built in 1916 in the opulent Beaux-Arts style and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Despite its pedigree, the building has sat vacant since 1976 and fallen into disrepair.

Tracey Evans, Executive Director at the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC), says the decision to choose the 125-year-old architecture firm was twofold. For one, MCF has a track record of working with historic structures, including the Bost Building in Homestead.

Just as important, they stressed the need to reintegrate the station, adjacent to the Martin Luther King, Jr. East Busway and central business district, back into the community.

“The train station’s central location in Wilkinsburg, on a strong axis at the end of Ross Street, puts it in a prime position to be an active central hub for the community,” says William Szymczak, Principal at MCF. “We look forward to helping restore this historic and iconic landmark building to once again be a vibrant asset to the Wilkinsburg community.”

The $3,000,000 project was kickstarted by a $1,000,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, which is contingent upon the CDC raising the remainder of the money. They are looking to raise about another $one million from private foundations and $600,00 more from private donors on top of $300,000 already collected.

A pre-evaluation of the 9,000-square-foot space should be completed by late January and construction should begin in the spring. Based on how the build out progresses they hope to put out a call for tenants in the summer.

It’s too early to tell who might occupy the space, but the WCDC hopes to draw a cafe, arts space, and even a Healthy Ride bike share station to the site. They want to involve the Port Authority in the reconstruction process and hopefully add a bus stop as an alternative to nearby commuter lots that don’t necessarily draw people to the nearby business district.

What they don’t want—and what several historic preservation grants expressly prohibit– is something like private office space that is largely off-limits to the public.

Evans says that Wilkinsburg has taken tremendous strides in recent years—people are buying and renovating homes, and new businesses (like Lovett Sundries, Nancy’s East End Diner and Tip Type) are moving in—but it takes a while for the perception to catch up to the reality. Restoring the station to its original glory would be “the most visible and noticeable piece” of Wilkinsburg’s ongoing transformation.

“It’s very important to the community,” she says. “It would really be a symbol of the reality of the change.”

The station is scheduled to open to the public in the summer of 2018.

Brian Conway

Brian Conway is a writer and photographer whose articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and local publications. In his free time, he operates Tripsburgh. Brian lives in the South Side.