South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

First steps take to renovate historic South High building into apartments


Drinking fountains are lined up waiting to be reinstalled on the walls of the former South High School. The School is undergoing a $13 million conversion into apartments by Gregory Development. For more information on the project see In The Neighborhood.

Developers of South High are banking on people wanting to live in a renovated historic school building.

Last week, Gregory Development opened South Side High School to community members for a tour of the 71 unit development now under construction. David Morgan, architect for the project, lead the walk through along with Gregory Coyle of Gregory Development.

The project to convert the historic buildings into upscale apartments will take place in two phases with the old part of the building, the one closest to 10th Street, expected to be completed and renting in about a year. The entire project is anticipated to be completed in 16 to 18 months.

The original school building was built in 1897 and was expanded by more than twice its size with an addition in 1924.

Financing for the project is from a variety of sources including a $10.6 million construction loan and $2.6 million in historic tax credits. Purchase price for the 172,260 square foot former school building was $1.5 million.

Walking through the building now with Mr. Coyle and Mr. Morgan takes a little imagination and a few memories to envision their plans for former classrooms, auditorium and even the swimming pool.

Mr. Morgan explained as much of the original feel of the building will be restored in converting classrooms into apartments. Rooms that had drop ceilings installed will have the original high ceilings restored, original blackboards will remain (some complete with students' names etched into them) while green boards that were installed later have been removed and donated.

Many of the school fixtures that remained and weren't needed for the apartments were salvaged and are being reused through Construction Junction.

The huge windows in the school buildings will remain. They will be reglazed and will have new storm windows placed on the inside to make them more energy efficient. From the outside of the building the storm windows shouldn't be noticeable.

Tenants of the building will walk on restored floor surfaces and down halls complete with lockers and drinking fountains. The school lockers will be sealed shut and will remain, at least the ones that are built into the walls. The free standing lockers have been removed from the building.

A portion of the school's auditorium will remain as a community or multi-purpose room with units toward the rear of the large room. Some of the center section of seats will also remain as well as a portion of the stage. Mr. Morgan said apartments will be constructed behind the stage's curtain and from the curtain forward remaining as it is now.

On the balcony, the front row of seats will stay intact with a wall constructed behind the seats. Unique multi-level apartments will be constructed toward the rear to accommodate the slope of the balcony.

Insurance concerns are preventing the developers from renovating and using the school's swimming pool Mr. Morgan said. In order to use the pool, they would have had to staff the pool with a lifeguard 24-hours a day.

Instead, they plan to frame in and protect the swimming pool and use the room as a fitness center. If at a later date the apartments become condos, the pool would be able to be renovated and used.

Classrooms in the former South High School building will be renovated into one and two-bedroom apartments. Gregory Development plans to keep the feel of the classrooms intact as much as possible. Photo courtsey of Gregory Development

As a school, the main entrance was on East Carson Street, as an apartment building, visitors will enter the building from the Sarah Street side where there will be handicapped accessibility and a security system.

Tenants will also enter the parking area from the Sarah Street side. An existing ground-level entrance will be widened providing access to subterranean parking for tenants.

When completed there will be one and two bedroom apartments throughout the buildings with a single efficiency apartment available in the original building. One-bedroom apartments will average approximately 870 square feet and two-bedroom 1,260 square feet. There will also be two penthouse apartments that will average 2,276 square feet of living space.

Cost to rent one of the apartments hasn't been determined yet and Mr. Coyle didn't want to commit to a rental price, but said it would be comparable to other similar developments in the city. He said he expected a one-bedroom apartment to rent in the $900 range.


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