WILKINSBURG BY THE NUMBERS
- 18 to 24: 10%
- 25 to 34: 12%
- 35 to 54: 26%
- 55 to 64: 15%
- 65+: 17%
- RACIAL DIVERSITY
- African American 64.74%
- White 28.04%
- Multiracial 3.66%
- Hispanic 2.18%
- Other 1.35%
- Rent: 62.6%
- Own: 37.4%
- Median Home Construction Year: 1945
- Median Rent: $713
- Median Home Value: $67,200
Just east of the city limits, the not-quite-suburban community of Wilkinsburg is carving out a notable presence on Pittsburgh’s creative landscape.
Penn Avenue meanders out of Pittsburgh’s East End neighborhoods and into Wilkinsburg, branching off into enclaves with tiny cultural gems like Up Beat Records, Biddle’s Escape coffee shop and the Percolate art gallery and creative library. Mom-and-pop jewelers and florists add to the mix, with businesses passed down through families for generations.
Printer’s Row, including Mercury Press, Challenge Printing and Hoechstetter Printing, upholds Wilkinsburg’s printmaking tradition. And newcomer TipType recently rescued Pittsburgh’s only working Linotype machine and is reviving that long-lost printmaking art.
The borough also hosts a pop-up creative firm from April 28 through May 1, offering discounted marketing advice, designs and advertising services to small businesses. Known as UpTo, the transitory ad agency chose Wilkinsburg’s central business district on Penn Avenue as its temporary home.
Despite the municipality’s economically depressed status, Wilkinsburg leaders sustain civic pride with strong environmental and community-building efforts. Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation has invested more than $13 million in the borough in recent years, and the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation heralds the borough’s real estate investment opportunities as poised for possibility.
Young people are discovering low rent in beautiful old buildings. On a more grassroots level, volunteers and activists run a robust crew of block clubs to address the specific neighborhood concerns throughout the 2.3-square-mile borough.
Settled by highly religious European immigrants, Wilkinsburg was nicknamed The Holy City when it seceded from Pittsburgh in 1871 in order to maintain its religious integrity. Today, the borough still prohibits bars and has a high concentration of Protestant churches. Only now, the borough’s 16,000 residents enliven its pious roots with gritty charm and a scrappy optimism.