Old school, new life

Bishop Boyle High School
Bishop Boyle High School in Homestead, Pa. was built in 1929 as a new school building for the borough’s catholic community. It’s designed in the gothic revival style and features a central entrance flanked by bays of large windows to provide amply natural light and fresh air to classrooms and other interior spaces. Bishop John J. Wright established the school when the St. Mary Magdalene Grade School grew into the Bishop Boyle High School on April 14, 1962, becoming the parish’s first secondary school. One hundred fifty-five ninth graders entered the doors for their first day of school in September 1962. Within the next two years school enrollment grew from 224 students in 1963 to 534 students in 1964.

An abandoned school—and neighborhood eyesore—in Pennsylvania has been renovated and rehabbed into a viable piece of real estate once again.

It has happened thanks to a trio of business partners and now friends in Homestead, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh.

Their success at one vacant school has now spread, and the group is turning two more empty buildings into livable spaces.

The building used to be Bishop Boyle High School. Built back in 1929, it was left vacant in 2013 after several years as a career center and school for troubled youth.

Now, the building is a modernized apartment complex.

Jesse Wig bought the old school for $100,000 in 2019. And Wig was soon connected to Adam Colucci and Dan Spanovich through friends.

“I love this building, you know, the original architecture, the marble, the terrazzo floors, it was just beautiful,” Colucci said.

They considered making the facility a wedding space, a beer garden or a WeWork location. But over time, they focused instead on turning the old school into an apartment building and began demolition. It took time to convert the classrooms into 27 one-bedroom and four 2-bedroom apartments.

The auditorium became a modern multipurpose shared space, and they added a full gym with a half basketball court. By March 2022 the building was 100 percent occupied.

“It’s amazing that more of them don’t get reused,” Colucci said. “They’re just fabulous old buildings. And yeah, it’s a little bit more difficult to build them out. But they’re already built for schools. I’m just surprised that, you know, these school districts are constantly being told by consultants or whoever that they have to build a new building, when many of these were designed and built so well, and could certainly last many, many more years, as we’ve proven with our renovation.”

The team added solar panels to improve their environmental footprint. They also worked with the National Parks Service, in part to receive tax breaks, but also because the building is in a historic district and the group worked to save the building’s historical significance. So far, it’s been well received.

“Not only do I enjoy real estate investing in like, the process of bringing older buildings back to life, but making an impact on the community is very important to me,” Wig said.

The trio has two more school renovations under way right now. One, another high school, is right across the street from the first project.

Source Nichole Berlie, Stephanie Whiteside, newsnation