This South Side church built for millworkers in 1905 could find new life as loft-style condominiums

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A former Catholic church in the South Side, shuttered for a quarter-century after parishioners moved to the suburbs, could soon welcome residents inside its red brick walls with its conversion to loft-style condominiums.

Tom Sabol and Scott Wolkowitz with The AM Group in New York will ask the Zoning Board of Adjustment on Feb. 8 for a multifamily variance in the South Side Flats neighborhood zoned for single-family residences, to build six condos in St. Matthew Church.

“We’re hoping to breathe life into this beautiful structure with new residents and allow it to remain in the neighborhood,” says Sabol, who grew up in New Castle and landed in New York after obtaining his architectural engineering degree from Penn State. “We want to repurpose it and we want it to be a successful project, so we can do more in Pittsburgh. It’s exciting right now — there’s so much new industry and a lot of cool things.”

Once largely a parish for Slovak immigrants who worked in the city’s mills, the church cornerstone was laid in 1905 and the building at South 19th and Mary streets was dedicated in 1906. It closed in 1992, when population losses led the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh to consolidate its South Side parishes into Prince of Peace Parish. The diocese removed the pews and most stained-glass windows, though a large, round stained-glass window at the front remains.

“If you walk 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’s too early to gauge the total project cost, he says. “There is some selective demo and cleanup work we need to do. But on the inside, it can be fit out, as far as separating the units.”

The window and the church bell tower will

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