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Church Condo Renovations Near Completion in Swissvale

This community effort and historical building has transformed over the past year.

, challenges and structural obstacles, new condominiums in an historical building will be completed by Dec. 1.

Patrick Shattuck, senior real estate development specialist at the Mon Valley Initiative, said the last year has been a journey for everyone involved.

“We have our first buyer hoping to be in Dec. 1, and she actually went under contract last January,” he said. “It has been quite a process for her to watch the transformation.”

Located at 7416 Duquesne Ave. in the previous home of the , the once crumbling building is now completely renovated and split into four different condominiums.

The project was completed with planning from MVI, borough and the Swissvale Economic Development Corporation.

MVI formed about 21 years ago with the demise of the steel industry as many communities faced similar economic challenges. With a mission to strengthen neighborhoods through a coalition of volunteer-led community development corporations, MVI now partners with 10 CDC's serving 12 communities, including Swissvale, which began its major efforts for revitalization in 2007.

Soon after beginning the Madonna Del Castello renovations last winter, Shattuck said contractors ran into a major obstacle when they discovered the roof trusses were held up by 18 different 2X6 pieces of wood that sat on a two-inch wedge.

“What we had to do was modify the entire structure, which included the design work, and we built a steel skeleton within the building that both caught the roof trusses and supported the roof, and we tied the exterior walls into that,” Shattuck said. “The exterior walls are not structural anymore.”

Everyone involved rolled with the punches, he said.

“It was a very stressful first couple of months, but our contractors have been great, all had suggestions and knew that both we and the community were committed to this,” he said. “We made it work.”

Special features of the new building include original front doors, arched windows, original altar space with a dome in one unit, original brick work and dramatically high ceilings.

“The transformation has been fantastic,” Shattuck said.

The church was originally built in 1921, and is one example of how local organizations can help maintain the original feel of a distinct neighborhood.

“Especially right now, all of our communities are challenged,” Shattuck said. “We have addressed the loss of population and what that does to the housing side, and that results in an oversupply of churches and other beautiful buildings.”

While their purposes may change, maintaining those buildings preserves the core of a community.

“In order to keep the fabric of our neighborhood, in order to maintain history and a sense of place, it’s very important,” he said.

said the local revitalization projects have sparked a new attitude on the block and beyond.

“To bring in new people, it makes people take more pride in the ownership of their houses and where they live,” she said. “People have been cleaning up more and really showing off where they live.”

The feeling has been infectious.

“People start looking at the area in a different way—it is up and coming—not deteriorating,” she said.

One condo is sold, while another is under agreement and a third has strong interest. Shattuck said the three officially available spaces have first mortgages of $90K and $95K, which have been subsidized. There are income restrictions and the space must be used as a primary residence for those interested.

For more information visit http://www.monvalleyinitiative.com/.

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