Youth outreach group saves crumbling church

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There's good news about the vacant, deteriorating church at the corner of Friendship and South Pacific avenues that I wrote about last month ("Can this church be saved?" July 7). The nonprofit group Earthen Vessels Outreach has reached an agreement to purchase the building from its present owner, the Rev. Lorraine Williams.

Earthen Vessels Outreach (EVO) has run a six-week summer day camp for disadvantaged urban youth since 2002 in the church next door. Its vision is to expand the service to children from Bloomfield, Garfield and East Liberty.

"EVO, rather desperate for a [day] camp site of its own, made an offer to Rev. Williams," writes board chairman Scott Means in an e-mail. "It was accepted, and EVO is about to undertake a leap of faith with this old church," which is expected to need at least $1 million in renovations -- money that will have to be raised.

The closing is scheduled for later this month.

After my story ran, Janet Scullion of the Bloomfield Citizens Council called to say the church isn't in Friendship, it's in Bloomfield. According to the city neighborhood map, she's correct, although some folks who live in that block consider it part of Friendship and are active in the Friendship neighborhood organizations.

Fix for vacant properties

Here's some more good news: The first national conference on vacant urban properties will be held here Sept. 24-25 at the Omni William Penn Hotel.

"Reclaiming Vacant Properties: Strategies for Rebuilding America's Neighborhoods" is sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and the National Vacant Properties Campaign, a project of Smart Growth America, the Local Initiatives Support Corp. and the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech.

Thirty interactive breakout sessions are designed to give participants tools to revitalize vacant properties. Included are strategies for resolving title issues, preserving and marketing vacant buildings, assembling land, preventing mortgage foreclosures and abandonment, reducing crime and building affordable housing.

The Hill, the Strip, North Side, Waterfront, South Side and East Liberty will serve as locations for mobile workshops. The conference also will look at case studies in New Orleans, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Chicago, Richmond, Camden and other cities. Information: www. vacantproperties.org or call Jennifer Leonard at 1-202-207-3355, ext. 23.

Candidates forum

The Pittsburgh Civic Design Coalition will host a Mayoral Candidates Forum on Sept. 27, focusing on issues related to design, development and civic planning. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Republican mayoral candidate Mark DeSantis have agreed to participate; Katherine Fink of WDUQ-FM will moderate. WDUQ will tape the conversation for airing in early October. The forum will be held from 6 to 9:30 p.m. at the David Lawrence Convention Center. To attend, RSVP by e-mail to design@judith-kelly.com or call 412-281-0995.

GBA in transit

The Green Building Alliance is growing and on the move. Late this year, it will relocate its office from one South Side location -- its green-renovated historic building on South 14th Street -- to another: the River Walk Corporate Centre, the red brick, former Terminal buildings at 333 E. Carson St.

The alliance plans to build out the space to achieve LEED Platinum status in the category of commercial interiors in existing buildings. Because recycling is a component of LEED and intrinsic to GBA's mission, it has a long wish list of used (and some new) items it is hoping will be donated, including a conference room table and chairs, shelving, file cabinets, workstation furniture, doors, flooring, lighting, AV equipment -- pretty much everything. Donors will be recognized on permanent display in the GBA offices, in a case study to be featured on the GBA Web site and as part of the commentary in regularly scheduled tours of the GBA offices, which serve as a catalyst for green building and green product growth throughout its Western Pennsylvania service area. All donations are tax-deductible. Contact Eamon Geary by 5 p.m. today at eamong@gbapgh.org.

A proposed layout of the space can be viewed on its Web site, www.gbapgh.org.

Fourth Avenue tours

Fridays in August at noon, a docent from Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation leads free walking tours of Downtown's Fourth Avenue National Register historic district, with buildings designed by more than a dozen prominent architects between 1836 and 1984.

"You'll hear about the man who helped save Pittsburgh's 'H' in the early 1900s and find out where Pittsburgh's first female architect [Elise Mercur] chose to locate her office," Landmarks' Mary Lu Denny writes. "You'll see silver dollars on two ceilings and discover where you can sip coffee in a vault." You'll also learn about renovations in progress.

Advance reservations are appreciated: call 412-471-5808, ext. 527; or e-mail marylu@phlf.org. Then meet at Fourth Avenue and Smithfield Street in the parklet adjacent to Dollar Bank.


Architecture critic Patricia Lowry can be reached at plowry@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1590.


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