Church buildings, practice stations: historic buildings renovated

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Imagine living in an apartment in an old church that houses an Andrew Carnegie donated chandelier and organ, dining in a restaurant in the lobby of a 105-year-old train station, decorated with marble from Italy decorated, or drink beer made in a brewery that was raided by federal authorities during Prohibition.

In the next few years, these could all be possibilities.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania recently announced fiscal 2020-2021 tax credits for owners of 27 historic buildings that are under active restoration and refurbishment. Six of the buildings receiving the credits are in Allegheny County. All are unique structures and their owners have some interesting plans for their future.

The Historic Conservation Tax Credit Program, launched in 2013, is administered by the Department of Community and Economic Development and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Find a home in a church

The First United Presbyterian Church of Braddock sits on a hillside. It is adjacent to the Carnegie Free Library of Braddock, which was expanded at the same time as the red brick church was built in 1893.

The church had an active ward until late 2017 when a handful of remaining members reached out to the Mont Valley Initiative and asked the group to take over the property. According to its communications manager Jason Togyer, the initiative is working to provide affordable housing and stabilize the neighborhood around the Carnegie Library.

“(The church members) were very clear that they did not want it to deteriorate (and become) a derelict, abandoned building,” said Dave Yargeau, the real estate developer for the Mont Valley Initiative. “You’ve cared for too long that it just falls apart, which unfortunately happens to many church buildings when they close. There just aren’t many uses for it. “

Wood-framed windows look out onto the nearby streets and let in natural light through stained-glass windows. The large chandelier and organ inside the sanctuary were donated by Carnegie, the steel baron of the late 19th century.

But while the original stained glass, pipe organ, and chandelier stand out, the interesting thing about the building is its unique architectural style. It was built in the style of an Akron auditorium, with a large sanctuary separated from smaller Sunday school classes by rolling partitions that can be raised for larger events.

It’s a specific style of architecture that, according to Yargeau, can be seen almost only in Presbyterian churches. He added that of the surviving buildings of this style, not many have been well preserved.

“(The building) is like a child to me at this point,” said Mr Yargeau. “I have a bunch of keys. Whenever friends or family come to town, I always go and show my church first, even if it’s not mine. “

The Mont Valley Institute has decided not to keep the building in memory, and the Historic Preservation Tax Credits are helping the organization with that as they represent a “significant portion” of its building budget, according to Yargeau. The project received a tax credit of $ 255,000, according to a government press release.

The Mont Valley Initiative intends to build mixed-income housing within the historic building. The group plans to make four of the units affordable to renters with or below 80% of the median income of the area, and the other four will be rented at market rates, according to Yargeau.

Half of the units will be in the basement, which opens to the outside as the building slopes down from the hill and gives access to natural light. These apartments will be a combination of one and two bedroom apartments.

The next three will be on the first floor. Two of the units will also have loft rooms, one will have a small chandelier and the other, which will house the former sanctuary, will have the organ and chandelier donated by Mr. Carnegie. However, the organ will be inoperable so as not to disturb the neighbors.

The final unit will be a one bedroom mezzanine bedroom that used to be a chorloft. Although some stained glass panels were stolen from the lower floors, the unit on this level has access to a large stained glass window.

“There is a proven need for high-quality living space in this valley. There is a proven need for affordable housing. And if you have the chance to create something unique, that is to say extraordinary, then I think it will be a really good project, ”said Mr Togyer.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has slowed its plans, the Mont Valley Initiative is hoping to start building denominational archives in late 2022 or early 2023, according to Mr Togyer.

A train station is finally being repaired

Another building undergoing unusual transformation with the help of Historic Preservation Tax Credits is the Pennsylvania Railroad Station in Wilkinsburg. According to a press release, the tax credit is $ 300,000.

The building, which has been vacant since 1965, has been in “critically dilapidated condition” for 20 years, according to Tracey Evans, managing director of the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation, which is helping with the redevelopment of the space.

The completion of the station in 1916 sparked three-day celebrations that were attended by 100,000 people, according to information on the company’s website. However, 100 years later, the building was abandoned with very little roof and the terrazzo and mosaic tile floors damaged by water, leaves and snow, Ms. Evans said.

“Wilkinsburg Railway Station has always been a project that the community has looked at and hoped to have restored (and) rehabilitated for decades and decades,” said Ms. Evans.

The organization began with the start of construction in 2017.

Marble held in place by corroded copper wire fell to the ground over time and broke, Ms. Evans said. She added that to repair, the group ordered replacement marble from the same quarry in Italy that the original marble came from in 1916.

Among other aspects of the restoration process, the organization had paint chips analyzed so that the building could be repainted in its original colors. Replicas of original lights were also ordered.

“Everything is as close as possible to the original building,” said Ms. Evans. “It’s a symbol of what was … and it’s a symbol of community revival.”

The group is currently finishing their historical retouching and Ms. Evans said the group would like to have a ribbon severed in late September.

Ms. Evans hopes the stately building will house a target restaurant in the main lobby. She added that the organization had reached out to Maker Space groups to see if they were interested in renting out rooms on the lower level.

“(It will) attract people to see the building who could then visit other places and businesses in the business district,” Ms. Evans said. “(We could) have a place (where) people in Wilkinsburg can walk to eat and meet, which we don’t (currently) do …. It would really increase the variety of opportunities in the business district. “

Three breweries in one

In contrast to some of the more unusual renovations, the owners of the Hazelwood Brewing Company want to bring the four-story brick structure back to its 1905 roots.

But they couldn’t have done this if they hadn’t qualified for the historic tax credits, according to David Kahley, president and CEO of The Progress Fund. According to a press release, the group received a tax credit of $ 300,000.

The Progress Fund – a lender to small businesses, especially those saving historic buildings – has been working to convert the historic Pittsburgh Brewery into a place for three microbreweries to make their beer and sell their wares. Mr Kahley hopes to open the facility about a year behind the originally scheduled opening in mid-2022 due to pandemic-related issues.

“We thought reusing the historic Hazelwood Brewery for the same purpose it was used for, which is independent brewing, would be a cool way to help Hazelwood find itself in the same industry that it was in 1905,” said Mr. Kahley said.

And the history of this industry is full of intrigue. The Hazelwood Brewing Company became a “national test case” of the prohibition legislation, according to Kahley. He added that there had even been US Senate hearings in Washington, DC, discussing raids and enforcement at Hazelwood Brewery.

“So these are villains and the mob, and you know, Hazelwood was where all these things went,” said Mr. Kahley.

The building will accommodate three independent breweries to make their drinks, but seating will be shared by all three.

Mr. Kahley mentioned Travis Tuttle of Butler Brew Works and Bonafide Beer Company as one of the brewers they are in talks with. Mr. Kahley has failed to name the other two breweries the Progress Fund is in talks with to fill the remaining spots.

The Hazelwood Brewing Company was only recently financed through historical tax credits. Last year, Mr. Kahley and the Progress Fund worked hard to get the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places so they could access this source of income. You put the building under a preservation order in November.

“It’s not just an old, cool, historic building. It’s an old, cool, historic building on the National Register, ”joked Mr. Kahley.

Not only is the building on the register now, he also said the loans bring in nearly a million dollars in investment in the project, which makes the project feasible. However, the Progress Fund had to make a small remodel to meet the National Park Service’s standards for buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, including the rooftop terrace.

The Progress Fund also hopes to rehabilitate an ice house that was also part of the original operation when the brewery is finished.

“Many industrial buildings are used as condominiums, townhouses, or apartments,” said Kahley. “So that an industrial building can actually be converted into an industrial building, we just think it’s a good story and it’s fun to do so.”

Old buildings, new businesses, strong communities

Two of the other three buildings in Allegheny County that are receiving historic preservation tax credits are the Maul Building in the East Carson Street Historic District and the Rite-Aid building, which is no longer a Rite-Aid building and is currently the Japanese steak house Nakama and the sushi bar houses. The third is the extension to the Frick building. It is to be used for apartments, according to a press release.

“Preserving historic buildings in Pennsylvania is critical to revitalizing communities while telling stories of the past,” said Dennis Davin, undersecretary for the Department for Community and Economic Development, in a press release. “With this grant, the award winners can modernize these spaces and bring them to new life – which leads to new living, working and play opportunities in neighborhoods across the state.”



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