Young Preservationists Association releases 2013 top 10 preservation opportunities

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Wilkinsburg's Pennsylvania Railroad Station, Hazelwood's original Carnegie Library branch and the Westinghouse Atom Smasher in Forest Hills are among this year's Top 10 preservation opportunities, an annual list compiled by the Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh.

The list was announced as part of the state Heritage Conference Tuesday night.

If the list looks familiar to top 10 watchers, it is.

"All the properties have been on a list since we started 11 years go," said Gerrod Winston, the YPA's board chairman. "My question to the board was, 'OK, we've brought attention to these projects over the years. Is there any measure of what has occurred, do we track these?' And there wasn't a yes. I said, 'Maybe this can be a starting point for having some follow-up.' "

The Young Preservationists' mission is to encourage young people's interest in historic resources, and its annual list is intended to showcase sites it deems worthy of preservation investment. Most properties that have been on the list are, at best, still in flux, wanting for investment.

"These are successes in that they still exist," Mr. Winston.

Streets in Homewood, Wilkinsburg and McKees Rocks have been updated for the list as examples of urban fabric that are compelling and still viable despite pock marks of abandonment.

Citing the housing stock on Race Street in Homewood, the YPA called on public-private partnerships to save the homes that are vacant because of the solidity of the majority that are well cared for.

"Many can still be saved and include valuable amenities like fireplaces, mantels and parquet floors that would be expensive features in new construction," according to YPA's description of Race Street.

Chartiers Avenue in McKees Rocks has holes and blight, but the community development corporation has significant plans that include making the Roxian Theater for a concert venue. YPA believes its listing can give these plans a fundraising boost "and help legitimize the years of work that McKees Rocks has put into bringing their proud town back to life."

Wilkinsburg's Penn Avenue, which YPA calls "an outstanding example of the Western Pennsylvania small town main street," has lost a number of buildings to demolition. YPA calls for a halt to further demolitions and a commitment to "preserving what gems remain in this struggling urban town."

The railroad station, which YPA determines to be the borough's strongest architectural asset, could become the transit hub it once was, and a feasibility study was conducted several years ago toward that end. YPA cites "a strong need for political leadership and community support" to get that project started.

Mr. Winston said the atom smasher property has a developer "who is looking to reuse or incorporate it in some fashion." Of the Crawford Grill on Wylie Avenue in the Hill District, he said the African American Preservation Jazz Society is interested in a museum there.

Arthur Ziegler, president of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, said he is pleased with the YPA's attention to collections of buildings.

Other preservation sites are the Pittsburgh sign on Mount Washington, the 1941-62 home of the National Negro Opera Company on Apple Street in Homewood; Aaron's in Connellsville, Fayette County, once the town's greatest furniture retailer; and the Meason House in Lemont Furnace, Fayette County.

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