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Demolition of former St. Nicholas church in Troy Hill to proceed

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Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, 8:24 p.m.
 

Pittsburgh has halted legal efforts to block the demolition of the former St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church along Route 28 in Troy Hill.

The city law department on Friday withdrew an appeal seeking to overturn an Allegheny County Common Pleas Court decision issued in July that gave the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh permission to tear down the building, which has been vacant since 2004.

City solicitor Daniel Regan said the city avoids “unnecessary financial risk.”

“My opinion is that we would unlikely prevail on appeal,” he said.

The city was scheduled to appear at a hearing next week before a board of reviewers. Regan said that if it found in favor of the diocese, “we could be facing significant financial losses.”

Working on behalf of the building's owner, St. Nicholas Parish in Millvale, the diocese sought the court's approval to demolish the building because the parish cannot afford the $1,800 monthly maintenance cost, which represents about 17 percent of the 225-member parish's collections.

The city's Historic Review Commission, which designated the building as a historic structure, previously denied the diocese's request to tear down the building because keeping it posed an economic hardship.

The Millvale parish has spent about $360,000 for insurance, maintenance and other expenses to keep the building, according to the diocese.

The Rev. Ron Lengwin said on Friday that the plan is to proceed with demolition.

“This has been dragging on for years. It's time to move on,” said Lengwin, a spokesman for the diocese.

“Keeping the building has been a financial drain on the parish, and we have some very real concerns about liability should the building collapse into the roadway, which according to engineering reports is a very real possibility,” he said.

Lengwin stressed that the church's historic murals and other items of significance to the Croation Catholic community have been moved to the church in Millvale, which merged with the North Side parish in 1994.

Mark Fatla, executive director of the Northside Leadership Conference, which had floated the idea of using the building for a heritage center, called it “a sad day.”

The organization had been negotiating with the diocese to take over ownership of the building but was not able to hammer out an agreement.

“The city administration pulled the only legal hurdle to demolition,” Fatla said. “It's a sad day for the Croation community, a sad day for the North Side and most importantly, a sad day for historic preservation because the city failed to back the decision of its own (Historic Review) commission.”

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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