Vacant Property Survey

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Going anywhere this summer? The shore, maybe, or a national park, possibly a trip to New York? Sterling Davis and Ed McCully are spending their summer looking at a bunch of vacant lots.
As part of the ongoing initiative to bring Wilkinsburg’s many abandoned properties back onto the tax rolls, the two graduate students are compiling a survey of abandoned properties and evaluating their potential for redevelopment.
The two come to Wilkinsburg through the Local Government Academy’s Municipal Intern Program. Borough Manager Marla Marcinko requested assistance from the program, to build on some groundwork done by CMU graduate students in a 2007 project sponsored by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation. That study identified abandoned properties as the biggest barrier to investment in the borough. This project, Marcinko says, is ambitious. It calls for the students to develop a plan for all vacant and distressed property in the borough, including coming up with criteria for designating a property as distressed and plugging the data into the borough’s land management database. The borough would then come up with a marketing plan to fully utilize these properties.
There are 658 properties in the abandoned structures inventory. Davis and McCully are starting with borough-owned properties, of which there are about 100. As part of the survey, they will break Wilkinsburg into 6 areas and identify one potential “development cluster” in each one. They will also consider the areas’ potential in conjunction with other recent redevelopment, using Peebles Square and Hamnett Place as “building blocks.”
“What we did with Hamnett about four years ago, we’d like to take that model and plug it in borough-wide,” says Marcinko.
Davis, who is a Beechview native, was not familiar with Wilkinsburg before he began the survey. “There are a lot of nice homes here,” he says. “This place has a lot of potential.”

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