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Sewickley Presbyterian says work to create fellowship hall at 'pink house' soon will begin

| Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Plans to turn the so-called “pink house” into a fellowship center are moving forward.

Within a “few months,” passers-by will begin to see exterior work occur at the Sewickley Presbyterian Church-owned property at 202 Beaver St., church member and spokeswoman for the project Nancy Merrill said.

Church leaders are working with contractors on the final process before work begins, she said.

Some interior work has been completed in the interim “but it's not observable” from the outside, Merrill said.

The property became the epicenter of debate in 2012 when leaders of the church announced plans to demolish the 3,000-square-foot home built in the mid- to late-1800s and replace it with a youth and fellowship building for church and public programming. The home was a private residence until about two years ago.

Final drawings and cost estimates are expected over the next few months, Merrill said.

Church leaders have said their reason to expand was to allow for more space for church and community groups who use the property for meetings.

“The church currently provides meeting space for dozens of community organizations during the week to the extent that our own church programs often have no available room in which to meet,” Merrill said.

She said the new space “will provide wonderful spaces for youth activities, adult classes and meetings and for nonprofit groups within the community.”

The plan will add 46 parking spaces to a lot set to be constructed between the pink house and church.

Church member and project task force leader Tom Graham said he was “pleased that we can now begin to alleviate congestion around the church on Sunday mornings.”

Currently, churchgoers park on Beaver Street.

“We have contributed to unsafe conditions on Beaver Street for too long, with cars parking on both sides of the street, public transportation passing by and young families and elderly church members having to navigate the traffic situation.”

Church leaders previously said renovating the pink house — which the church purchased for $850,000 — could cost up to $2 million, plus about $3,000 in monthly operating costs for the three-floor home. Leaders estimated that razing the house and building new would cost about $1.1 million, and initially leaders were concerned about the cost of renovating, among other factors.

Community members — through work of a grassroots group — had pledged to raise up to $200,000 to contribute to costs of renovating the “pink house.”

“We did not anticipate the level of interest in the community in maintaining the house,” said the Rev. Kevin Long, senior pastor at the church.

“But we listened and we thought about it and we prayed about it, and decided that if we can raise the necessary funds, we would repurpose the house for the church and community use.”

Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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