Pittsburgh churches

This south side church built for carpenters in 1905 could find new life as loft-style condominiums

A former Catholic church on the south side, closed for a quarter of a century after parishioners moved to the suburbs, may soon welcome residents inside its red brick walls with its conversion to loft-style condominiums.

Tom Sabol and Scott Wolkowitz of AM Group in New York will apply to the Zoning Board of Adjustment on February 8 for a multi-family exemption in the South Side Flats neighborhood zoned for single-family residences, to build six condos in St. Matthew’s Church.

“We hope to bring this beautiful structure to life with new residents and allow it to stay in the neighborhood,” says Sabol, who grew up in New Castle and landed in New York after graduating as an architectural engineer from Penn. State. “We want to reuse it and we want it to be a successful project, so that we can do more in Pittsburgh. It’s exciting right now there are so many new industries and a lot of cool stuff.

Formerly largely a parish for Slovak immigrants who worked in the town’s mills, the cornerstone of the church was laid in 1905 and the building to the south 19e and Mary Streets were consecrated in 1906. It closed in 1992, when population losses led the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh to consolidate its parishes on the south side into Prince of Peace Parish. The diocese removed the benches and most of the stained glass, although a large round stained glass window in the front remains.


“If you go inside, it’s a pretty open space,” says Sabol, whose company bought the church from ACTION-Housing Inc. two weeks ago for $ 200,000. It is too early to assess the total cost of the project, he said. “There is some demonstration and selective cleaning work that we need to do. But inside, it can be arranged, to separate the units.

The window and the church steeple will be unique features of the condos, he says.

A remaining stained glass window could become an interesting feature of a condo.

It can be difficult to renovate a church, but the rectangular building could easily be split into six units with two-story living space, says Jim Ambrose, director of business development for Desmone Architects, who is involved in the project. The ground floor would have a common area and the basement would be converted into a garage for the residents.

“My favorite part is how unique the units are going to be they’re all going to celebrate the church’s original architecture while creating modern living spaces, ”Ambrose says. “This will raise the bar for residential living spaces in Pittsburgh.”

Although parts of the South Side have gained a reputation for being loud for its bars, this tucked-away residential area is quiet, says Ambrose. The church was the one that Councilor Bruce Kraus attended as a child.

At 7,000 square feet, the project is small, says Ambrose. A rectory and another adjacent building have already been converted into condos, but the church has remained vacant and a previous developer has abandoned their renovation project.


“Even though this is a small project, it’s something the community has been considering for some time, thinking, ‘Eventually this thing is going to fall apart, so who’s going to come and save it? The South Side “is working to attract young professionals who will become more permanent residents, and this project allows them to do so.”

Inside the old St. Matthew’s Church, the benches and windows have disappeared, but the building remains solid.

Desmone hasn’t sketched any designs yet; the architect and developer will hold a design meeting after the zoning board hearing, Sabol said. He plans to take advantage of the double-height space for “a dramatic feel as you step into the living spaces”.

Sabol is eager to start the project. “This is our first in Pittsburgh and our first as a developer, so it’s also exciting for us,” he says of The AM Group, which formed two years ago and has done some construction projects in New York. The church, says Sabol, “has good bones. It was really well built; he just needs a new life.

He sees a market for condos among people who no longer want to rent.

“We believe it will be a pleasant and unique living space,” he says.

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