Evan Indianer is no stranger to working in unusual spaces. The founder and CEO of Unicentric first brought his business to a warehouse in the Strip District nearly two decades ago. “There was nothing there,” says Indianer who said his friends were mystified by his move. “We were on the edge of Lawrenceville.”
Hard to believe but the location then was far from the Lawrenceville of today. Eighteen years later, the area was thriving, and Indianer was ready for something new.
Indianer got the idea to move the office when his wife attended an event where Mayor of Braddock John Fetterman spoke. She returned from the experience inspired by the Braddock community and encouraged Indianer to take a look in the area for a new office space.
“I started looking up real estate in Braddock, and all of the sudden I found this old church,” says Indianer. After a tour of the building, Indianer was convinced. “I called my wife and said, ‘Honey, we need to buy this.’”
A year later, the team at Unicentric has moved its business from the Strip District into the former church. The space, built in 1894, has seen a variety of change in Braddock. Next to the Edgar Thomson Steel Works, the building was first established as a synagogue and became a Baptist church in the 1930s.
Despite its age, the building was in excellent shape. “It was very different when it was full of pews,” jokes Indianer, but Unicentric worked with Joel Farkas of Farkas Associates to seamlessly transform the church into an open office space. The first floor is offices, featuring large stained glass windows flanked by private meeting rooms. The basement, with original stone walls, can hold over 100 people. While Unicentric is using the area for training, Indianer hopes “that we could have some community events there.”
Billed as a “software company for people who help people,” the team at Unicentric has found opportunities to get involved in the Braddock community. During the renovation, Indianer came across a working commercial stove in the church’s basement. With no use for it, Indianer called up Superior Motors’ Kevin Sousa and donated the stove to the restaurant.
Indianer and his team have also found support from Mayor Fetterman.
“He’s very supportive,” Indianer explains.” As he said to me when we met with him recently, ‘You’ve made a commitment, you’ve moved here, what can I do for you? Here’s my cell number.’ You’re not going to get that type of support everywhere.”
The community-minded atmosphere “is just part of what’s going to bring strength to this area,” says Indianer. The team at Unicentric takes part in company walks around the streets of Braddock, meeting neighbors and local businesses. Since they’ve relocated to the old church, the company has had its fair share of visitors from the community.
A recent visitor to the office had lived in Braddock his whole life. When the building was a synagogue, he used to help the Rabbi prepare for services.
While the space has worked out well for the company, it’s the community that’s been the most exciting, says Indianer. “We wave to everyone who’s here. We try to introduce ourselves, and everybody’s friendly. Everyone’s excited about the opportunities here.”