PITTSBURGH — Teresa Radwan, of Pittsburgh’s Marshall-Shadeland neighborhood, is proof that one seemingly ordinary woman can make a difference.
Radwan got sick of seeing 47 row houses rotting away across the street from her home on Hodgkiss Street, so she led an effort to buy and raze the properties. This past week, the city dedicated three single-family homes and a small park where the row houses once stood.
“I got mad,” said Radwan, 53. “They were just letting those places run down, and I knew we had to do something.”
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Radwan started by calling the late Carole Annis, president of Brightwood Civic Group. The group bought the property and, with the help of the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), built Washburn Square, named for a street that once bisected the park.
Fifteen years and about $3.1 million in public funding later, the brick row houses are gone, replaced with new homes, grass and sidewalks lined with dogwoods, crabapple and sycamore trees. The URA sold the homes for $135,000 apiece.
“My vision is that we show movies in the park,” Radwan said. “This is a very poor neighborhood. The parents don’t have cars, and the kids could just walk over to the park and see a movie in the summer.”
The civic group initially wanted to restore the row houses and rent them as a source of income, said Radwan, a former member of its board. Other plans at one time called for 19 new homes on the property. In the end, the group decided a park would be better for the neighborhood.
City Council President Darlene Harris said Washburn Square is only a beginning. Brightwood is buying rundown houses on nearby Woodland Avenue with plans to rehabilitate and sell them, she said. The first house, a bungalow, is for sale.
“We own eight other homes and we plan to do the same thing with them,” said Diane Annis-Dixon, Carole Annis’ daughter and now president of the civic group.
She said neighborhood residents were glad to see the row houses go. “I had a relative who lived there. When you walked in the front door it was like being on a boat. The floor leaned this way and that way.”