Old Standard Life Building sold for $2 million at sheriff's sale

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The Standard Life Building, known for its turn-of-the-20th century Romanesque revival architecture, is facing a revival of a different sort under new ownership.

A partnership, Penn Hills Place LLC and Penn Hills Arms LLC of New York, bought the property for $2 million at a sheriff sale Monday with the intent to convert the 13-story building, formerly used for student housing, into apartments.

The price was less than half of the $5.9 million sought by First Commonwealth Bank in foreclosing against 345 Fourth Avenue LLC, the former property owner, in April. The amount included a $5.3 million mortgage, plus interest, late charges and other fees.

First Commonwealth moved to foreclose after 345 Fourth Avenue defaulted on the mortgage. The Penn Hills partnership outbid several others.

Richard Beynon, who represents the new owner, said the plan is to convert the upper floors, previously used for housing for students from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, into 33 apartments, mostly two-bedroom units.

Mr. Beynon, president of Beynon & Co., a Pittsburgh real estate firm, said the partnership had been looking to break into the burgeoning Downtown housing market and "felt this was a good buy" to do so.

"We're basically running out of this type of inventory Downtown," he said.

The upper floors of the building, converted into student housing in 2005, currently are vacant. The new owner will start taking applications for rentals immediately and hopes to have the first units leased in 30 days, Mr. Beynon said.

Since the building was used for student housing, the conversion to market-rate apartments should be fairly easy and "more cosmetic in nature" than anything else, he added.

Potential options to help fill the building, at least initially, could be extended-stay opportunities, Mr. Beynon noted. "This building and the layout lends itself to a lot of different opportunities. That's kind of the beauty of it," he said.

A convenience store located at street level and a day care center on the mezzanine level are expected to stay in place under the new ownership.

Before Monday's sheriff sale, Mr. Beynon had been trying to sell the building for 345 Fourth Avenue LLC. He said the property ended up in foreclosure after the owner lost the lease for student housing.

The Art Institute had been leasing the building to house its students. However, that lease expired on July 31, 2012, and the school didn't seek to renew it, a spokeswoman said.

The Standard Life Building was designed by Alden & Harlow, Pittsburgh's leading local architectural firm in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The structure anchored one end of what was then known as Pittsburgh's "Wall Street" on Fourth Avenue.

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First Published August 5, 2013 12:45 AM


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