Photo Courtesy of New City Marketing.

It’s not easy to renovate a desanctified church, says Kathy Wallace. But done right, it can lead to spectacular living spaces with unique architectural details.

Wallace, an agent with Keller Williams Realty specializing in historic redevelopments, says restoring a church presents design challenges that deter many investors, and leave dozens of old and unused churches vacant across the region.

A narrow church steeple, difficult to access and perched as high as 100 feet above the ground, can be enough to turn off even the boldest developers, she says: “I’ve really, until now, not been that enthusiastic about them because I know how complicated it can be for a conversion.”

But when developer Ivor Hill reached out in early 2017 with a proposal to turn St. Casimir Church in the South Side into a residential development that respected the building’s character and history, Wallace couldn’t resist.

Photo courtesy of New City Marketing.

St. Casimir served Pittsburgh’s Lithuanian community from 1902 until 1992, when the parish merged with six other South Side parishes to become Prince of Peace.

Now branded as the 22nd Street Condos, the development includes 12 units, eight of which are currently occupied. Each residence, ranging between 1,200 to 2,300 square feet, features some elements of the building’s old, ecclesiastical heritage, such as a belltower or stained glass windows. Indovina Associates Architects collaborated on the design.

“A lot of the original detail and character remains,” says Wallace.

Photo courtesy of New City Marketing.

Amenities include a fitness center, basement-level indoor parking and a guest suite that residents can borrow when friends or family come to visit.

The earliest buyers were able to collaborate with the designers on the final look of their homes, Wallace says, and craftsmen are now putting the final touches on the four condo units that remain for sale. Prices range between $594,000 and $697,000.

Heartened by the success of these condos, Wallace has continued pursuing the church-flipping business. She is currently the primary leasing agent on Matthew’s Lofts, a restored Slovakian church located at 156 S. 19th Street, just a few blocks away.

Wallace tells NEXTpittsburgh that both projects share a strong sense of history and an innovative approach to home design.

“They’re very different projects and products,” she says. “But I think both developers are doing a great job.”

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.