Archive

Highland Park resident buys St. Clement Church in Tarentum | TribLIVE.com
News

Highland Park resident buys St. Clement Church in Tarentum

Joyce Hanz

Phillip Rhodes is Catholic, attended Catholic school as a child and sent all three of his children to Catholic school.

So naturally he was the perfect candidate to purchase the long-vacant St. Clement Church and School property on West Ninth Avenue in Tarentum.

Rhodes bought the property on Dec. 2 , making a winning bid of $50,000, during a live auction by Hostetter Auctioneers of Beaver County.

And while this 48-year-old software engineer wasn't looking for a property steeped in Catholic tradition, he believes a little bit of divine intervention may have led him there.

Rhodes' random Internet search of available real estate led to the St. Clements listing.

Seeking a business opportunity in the Alle-Kiski Valley — Rhodes has fond childhood memories of an idyllic life in Freeport – he put the auction on his radar.

“I love the rivers and the location Tarentum affords,” said Rhodes, who resides in Highland Park with his wife and three children.

He fell in love with the character, charm and very large space, said Rhodes.

“This whole process has been fortuitous,” said Rhodes. “I did a walk through thirty minutes before the online/on-site auction and was a little nervous because I was bidding against this one other man running up and down the building talking about how fabulous a property it is. But once the bidding hit 50K, I had the winning bid, beating out 30 registered bidders.”

According to data from Allegheny County's real estate records, the property is valued at $200,000. It sits on a half-acre and includes 43,000 square feet of space.

St. Clements ownership has changed many hands, with the most recent seller listed as LLC CV12 in Los Angeles, according to Rhodes' legal team.

The property includes a parking lot for 15-plus cars, electrical and lighting upgrades, newer windows in the now-closed school building, and convenient access to Route 28 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

“I got an awesome deal,” said Rhodes. “The property is a gem.”

Rhodes is “thrilled and excited” to own such a historic piece of history in Tarentum.

He has 45 days to close the sale and plans to hire a general contractor to handle renovations that will “cost over six figures,” he said. Rhodes hopes to have contractors scheduled soon.

Phase one will be an assessment of immediate, needed repairs, combined with a long- term redevelopment plan, said Rhodes.

“I want to remodel and go with the church's character, not stomp it out,” he said.

Although most of the church and school are stripped of furnishings, the bell and pipe organ remain.

Tarentum Mayor Carl Magnetta said the borough is excited a new owner is coming in and wants to move forward with development.

“It's a shame it has sat idle all of these years. When it closed, the school was in great condition,” Magnetta said. “It's fantastic.”

Rhodes isn't steadfast on the type of business he will bring to Tarentum. In fact, he's seeking input from the local community and giving them an online voice.

He has created both a website and Facebook page to solicit feedback, share thoughts and suggest plans for the building.

Some ideas include residential apartments, an assisted-living facility and a technology-incubation hub, according to Rhodes' website.

Rhodes intends to follow the ABCD methodology to develop the best plans for the site. ABDC — asset-based community development — is a methodology for the sustainable development of communities based on their strengths and potentials.

“There are a lot of possibilities for its usage,” said Rhodes. “I intend to solicit input from the community for what would be some of the more favored uses of the property.”

Dolly Mistrik, president of the Alle-Kiski Valley Heritage Museum in Tarentum, was both a parishioner and student at St. Clements and is “happy to see something happen with the property.”

Joe Bodnar, 92, of Tarentum had heard the property was up for auction. He was a student at St. Clement and recalled his fondest memory.

“Running away from one of my nun teachers and crawling out of a school window to avoid punishment,” said Bodnar.

Bodnar had planned on attending the auction, but illness kept him home.

“At least that empty church won't be an eyesore anymore,” said Bodnar.

Joyce Hanz is a TribTotal Media freelance writer.


TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.