Business management alumna leads economic development in Wilkinsburg
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
Tracey Truax Evans (BUS 1987) moves effortlessly among many roles in her work.
It’s a skill she began to hone as an undergraduate, after deciding to study business administration in the evening while working full days in technical theater jobs.
Evans completed her business degree in 1987 and accepted a position as a properties designer at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. She stayed five years designing and procuring props, maintaining inventory and generally helping to make the artistic vision of theater and dance productions a reality on stage.
“The Playhouse was its own world,” she says fondly. “I especially loved working on the children’s shows because they provided special opportunities for creativity.”
She later worked as a freelance set designer for Prime Stage, Civic Light Opera, Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, City Theatre, Pittsburgh Public Theatre, Carnegie Mellon University and the Playhouse.
Yet Evans’ creativity wasn’t only blooming behind the stage. She was also envisioning urban spaces and buildings in new ways.
It started out relatively small, with working to improve a park in Wilkinsburg. That effort snowballed into a new resident association. One volunteer project led to another, and each council meeting led to a second. Eventually Evans found herself with a new calling, and she’s been working in community and economic development ever since.
Today, residents of Wilkinsburg and the region are benefiting from her creativity and ability to juggle multiple projects. In 2010 Evans became the first executive director of the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation, an organization she helped to found in 2007. Today she works with a board of directors to implement strategies that improve the quality of life throughout the community.
A large part of the job is leading the revitalization of Wilkinsburg’s main commercial district on Penn Avenue, working full-time to execute year one of a 10-year plan developed with input of residents, business owners, political leaders and regional organizations. The economic development work is being funded in part through a $1.8 million pledge from Tri-State Capital Bank through the state’s Neighborhood Assistance, Neighborhood Partnership Program. Evans acts as liaison with all funders and partners, including Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, state and local political leaders, and state agencies.
Every workday is different. One might address getting specific storefronts up to code and in rentable condition. A day later she might be identifying sources of funding for demolition of select buildings. Another, she might be found with staff planning the delivery of new trees to the business district. And still another, writing new grant applications and promoting the district’s successes.
The job fits Evans like a glove. Her previous community roles include working as a legislative assistant for Pa. Rep. Joseph Preston Jr. She is in her fifth year as an elected member of the borough council, and for the past eight years she has chaired both the Wilkinsburg Municipal Authority and Wilkinsburg Borough Commercial and Industrial Development Authority. Five years ago the Wilkinsburg Chamber of Commerce named her Citizen of the Year.
She recently marked 25 years of living in Wilkinsburg. She and her husband and their two children, ages 12 and 16, still live near Whitney Park, the green space she helped to redesign years ago.
And of course, she still loves the theater.
Text by Colleen Derda
Photos by Martha Rial
The Point is a magazine for alumni and friends of Point Park.