Woodland Ave. construction begins, Washburn Square nearly complete

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Two major revitalization projects by the Brightwood Civic Group in Brightwood will make significant progress this summer.

Construction on the first house in the Woodland Avenue revitalization project began on May 18, and the completion of a park behind the three-unit Washburn Square housing development should be finished by the end of June, weather permitting, according to former BCG president Ed Brandt.

For the past few years, BCG has been purchasing properties on Woodland Avenue in order to renovate and re-sell them to revitalize the troubled street. The Northside Leadership Conference is project manager for the revitalization efforts.

The BCG met with the Urban Redevelopment Authority on May 12 to negotiate funding and expand the Woodland Avenue project onto other under-developed Northside streets.

After the BCG recognized the dire need to solve the public safety issues on Woodland Avenue four years ago, they enforced a block watch program to keep the crime and danger to a minimum, Brandt said. The Woodland Avenue housing project began one year after the block watch.

Currently BCG owns 1324 and 1407 Woodland Avenue and has a sales agreement on 1208 Woodland. The city has given BCG site control over three properties on Woodland and one on Brighton.

Those properties will go through a Treasurer’s sale where BCG can purchase them, said Woodland Avenue Project Manager Jonathan Huck of the NSLC.

Other homes are pending with the owners.

“We are almost through pre-development,” Huck said. “We have acquired parcels, some level of design, we hired an architect and we are now looking to gain the financing package.”

Funding for the project comes from the Northside Community Development Fund, Rivers Casino grant money and Fidelity Bank.

Huck estimated the project would cost several million dollars, but did not have a concrete number at this time.

Although the Washburn Square housing project has been in the works for more than a decade, and three houses were built last year, it is not completely finished.

“The project is a 15-year project,” said BCG’s current president, Diane Annis-Dixon. “It’s a slow process, but I think it is a definite improvement for that little niche in Brightwood. It’s a unique neighborhood.”

David Howe of the Pittsburgh Housing Development Corporation of the URA served as project manager.

The homes for this project, which include the complex between Superior Avenue and Hodgkiss Street, were completed last June and sold accordingly.

The excess land behind the three homes is being transformed into a park that will include walking paths, trees and small flower beds. Howe called the entire project an “innovative model” that he would like to reproduce across the city.

“Right now people who come from Downtown and pass through Brightwood to go out of the city wouldn’t give us a second look,” Dixon said.

“My intent is for them to pass by and see something that grabs their attention and say, ‘What happened here?’ We’re hoping to push the riffraff out and bring wholesome people in for a lot of change in the Northside.”

Ashley Goodsell graduated from Point Park University this year with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She was co-sports editor for Point Park’s newspaper and plans on attending graduate school for communications or advertising.

Assistant Editor Kelly Thomas contributed to this story.

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