Old school has new use in Mt. Washington
Lesson plans have changed at what once was the Prospect School in Mt. Washington.
Hallways that took students to math classes now take residents to apartments. A stage that once featured young performers now is the setting for community gatherings.
Prospect School has become the Lofts of Mount Washington, a 67-unit apartment complex giving new life to a city school built in 1931 and closed in 2006.
“It really helps the community,” said Ilyssa Manspeizer, executive director of the Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation. “When a building sits there empty, it can really hurt the neighborhood.”
Victor Rodriguez, president of A.M. Rodriguez Associates, said his firm did the development of the site with the surrounding area in mind.
“We talked to neighborhood groups to find out their thinking and to let them know what we were doing,” he said.
The school for elementary and junior-high students had two auditoriums. The smaller one, which seats 150, has been maintained as a site for concerts, movies and meetings. It will be open for community use. Its placement in the building made it accessible to outsiders without entering the apartment area.
It has been named the Joe Negri Auditorium in honor of the guitarist and TV figure who attended Prospect between 1935 and 1942.
“That school was really special,” Negri said. “It was in that auditorium where I was introduced to the music of Stephen Foster.”
The stage area of the larger performance space has been made into a pair of two-story townhouses. The wooden floor has been refinished and is the base of both units. The large auditorium has a common area for residents that features a bar, furniture for lounging and electronic charging stations.
The gym is going to be made into a fitness club, Rodriguez said, and will be open to the public. It is too big of a room for apartment residents alone, he said.
The neighborhood does not have a fitness facility.
His company, founded by his father, Anthony, has converted a number of schools into retirement facilities, so this kind of project is not new. But it is the first time the company has made one into apartments.
Rodriguez said his company began work on the $13 million redevelopment in March 2013.
The site offers studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units, including two-story townhouses. Rents range from $850 to $2,200. A week after the site opened in May, 50 of the 67 units were leased.
The pet-friendly apartments are equipped with kitchen appliances and a washer and dryer, but the building does not have storage facilities.
The apartments are illuminated by the big windows that are typical of buildings of this type, Rodriguez said, but in some cases, the top glass panels had been covered to block out some of the heat and sunlight.
“But the light only came through to about here,” he said, standing at the edge of a kitchen area in one of the apartments. “So we had to open them up to let more light in.”
The buildings sit near the top of Mt. Washington, and some of the apartments have good views of the Downtown area and the hilly neighborhood.
The developer said his company added a City View Terrace “to make sure everyone has a view.”
That common area has an indoor social room and an outdoor area on a rooftop that “will be big on any fireworks night,” Rodriguez said.
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7852.