Twenty-five years after it was shuttered as a house of worship, the long-term future of St. Casimir Church at 22nd and Sarah St. in the South Side has been established. Internal demolition work has begun on transforming Pittsburgh’s first Lithuanian Catholic church into 12 luxury condominiums.
For the past 10 years the church served as a single-family residence. It was sold this January for $578,517 to developer Ivor Hill and partners Jim Hankle and Viktor Fischer under the name HHF LLC.
“I was actually driving to my guitar lesson when I saw the ‘for sale’ sign,” says Hill. “The two most important things I look for in a building are the location and the structural integrity. This building has a terracotta roof. That will last for thousands of years, not hundreds.”
According to the Pittsburgh Diocese, St. Casimir was founded in 1893 as the first Lithuanian parish in Pittsburgh. The parish moved into St. Casimir church in 1902 and called it home until 1992, when the parish merged with six other South Side parishes to become Prince of Peace.
The church was desanctified long ago; where the altar once stood is now a gaping brick wall. But much of the stained glass and ornate molding remains.
Five units will occupy the first floor and seven will make up the second. Each unit, ranging between 1200 to 2300 square feet, will be two stories tall with two bedrooms and two bathrooms apiece. All but one of the second floor units will have a private deck, and two of spaces will include the former bell towers.
Twelve parking spaces will be installed in the basement. The first floor will also contain a common gym area and meeting space/mother-in-law suite with a kitchen and bathroom.
Hill Property Investments will handle the buildout upon approval of the building plans, which were designed by Indovina Associates Architects.
“It is gratifying to work on such an iconic building and grand interior space,” says Rob Indovina, principal at Indovina Associates Architects.
One of the most interesting aspects, he adds, is that the new spaces will give occupants “the opportunity to intimately interact with all of the structure’s wonderful detail at eye level.” He points out that for many decades, much of it was located 50 feet in the air.
Units at the 22nd St. Residences will begin at $350,000 and top out around the high 500-thousands.
Assuming the project receives city permit approval, the buildout is planned for this summer. Units will be move-in ready in July 2018, and a pre-sale will begin next month.
Asked about the emotional attachment of the building to the South Side community, Hill recounted the story of a visit from an insurance inspector who happened to grow up nearby and attended both the church and former school next door (which itself was turned into condos in 2007).
“He said he hated to see the church sitting empty and decaying,” says Hill. “I think people who are emotionally attached to it are pleased to see the repurposing.”