Wilkinsburg Train Station to be transformed into a business center

Outside the lower level of the historic Wilkinsburg Train Station, the brick courtyard bordered by plantations could soon be a venue for fairs and markets for creatives and an inviting space for entrepreneurs to gather at tables and chairs as they They brainstorm ideas for startups.

Bridgeway Capital, a not-for-profit lender, plans to open a business assistance center in the recently renovated High Street train station in early 2023.

The center will offer consulting, workshops and other programs for small businesses, including creative ones.

The patio was the former station’s “selling point,” says Adam Kenny, director of programs for Bridgeway, which provided the $750,000 loan to the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation. A $6.5 million renovation of the 106-year-old building.

The outdoor space “provides visibility and connection to the community,” says Katie Johnson, director of Bridgeway’s Creative Business Accelerator, which helps local artists and makers create and grow their companies and market their wares. .

Bridgeway’s mission as a social impact investor is to help finance small businesses, nonprofits and real estate projects in underserved and underserved communities like Wilkinsburg.

Last year, it disbursed $19.3 million in loans and grants, with 91% of loans going to projects in low- and middle-income areas. About half of Bridgeway’s loans went to businesses owned by people of color. Only half went to women-owned companies.

Bridgeway Capital’s Katie Scheibel with Roderick Ramsey, center, and Katie Johnson tour the company’s new location in the Wilkinsburg Train Station building. Photo by Sebastian Foltz.

Roderick Ramsey, business support program manager at Bridgeway, says the train station space will provide resources for entrepreneurs “in a personal setting” that many have lost during the pandemic.

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“It’s an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and it’s an exciting time to be in Wilkinsburg,” says Ramsey, who also lives in the borough.

Just a few years ago, Ramsey, who is black, joined Bridgeway as an entrepreneur who founded Ocular Arcade, a web design and development business.

As a participant in the Bridgeway Origins program, which supports black creators, Ramsey says he engaged with other black creators and “found a safe place for me to grow my business and grow professionally.” grow up.”

Bridgeway Ocular received a $2,000 grant for research and development and referred Ramsey’s business for a $2,000 grant from the Creative Entrepreneur Accelerator Program, which is funded by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and to entrepreneurs who Preference is given to those who are black or Indian in colour.

In April, Ramsey joined Bridgeway to oversee its core and construction-inclusive development programs.

Darrell Williams of Wilco Construction works on renovations to the Bridgeway Capitol section of the Wilkinsburg train station in early November. Photo by Sebastian Foltz.

The redevelopment of the train station is the centerpiece of Wilkinsburg’s efforts to revitalize a once-thriving business district that has declined since the collapse of the area’s manufacturing base. Opened by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1916, the Beaux-Arts structure fell into disrepair after Amtrak stopped serving the borough in 1975.

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Holes in the roof, broken windows, cracked brick and plaster, damaged marble and mosaic tiles, and graffiti all over were among the challenges faced in reviving the Wilkensburg CDC’s dilapidated building that had been there for decades. have since been abandoned.

The restoration began with a $1 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. Additional charities, several local banks and individuals, Wilkinsburg High School students and other sources also contributed funds.

The Wilkinsburg CDC, which held a grand reopening in September 2021, is looking to lease the main level to a restaurant that would occupy the entire floor. CDC’s director of economic development, Marley Gallagher, says the CDC is “also open to ideas like a shared kitchen or dining hall concept” for the core level.

There is also 1,860 square feet on the lower level that was previously used as a luggage storage for the train station. This space has access to a shared kitchen with a bridge and courtyard. It can also be used by the main floor tenant, Gallagher says.

bridge path Rents about 2,000 sq.ft Where it will house programs including its Creative Business Accelerator, Monmade, Origins, Inclusive Development Building and Entrepreneurship Center.

The space has flexible areas that can be used for conference rooms, classrooms and meetings and will also have a gallery where artists and makers can display their work in rotating and permanent exhibitions.

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The Bridgeway Capital location is under construction in the Wilkinsburg train station building. Photo by Sebastian Foltz.

Bridgeway’s headquarters will be based in downtown Pittsburgh.

It also operates 7800 Susquehanna, a former Westinghouse Power plant in Homewood that leases space to artists, small manufacturers and a job training program.

Bridgeway received $250,000 from the Hillman Family Foundation to build its space at the train station.

Because the project is supported by the Bridgeway Building Inclusive Development Program, 75% of the building budget goes to minority contractors who work on site.

Most of the furniture will come from makers in the Bridgeway Monmade program, which helps market goods from local artisans. When it is completed in early 2023, Bridgeway hopes to install an exhibition that will showcase products made by Monmade participants.

Nine companies working on sustainable products — such as hardware made from melted car parts and lamps made from olive oil bottles — are on display, says Monmade president Katie Scheibel.

“We hope it’s a beautiful industrial design show,” he says.

On Sunday, December 11, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Wilkinsburg Train Station is hosting a Made in Wilkinsburg holiday exhibit in partnership with Workshop PGH. The free event features local vendors and artists, food trucks, DIY activities, flower and tree benefit sales and more.


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