Although the "death certificate" was signed two months ago when the city of Pittsburgh opted not to appeal a judge's decision allowing the parish to raze the old St. Nicholas church building in Troy Hill, the demolition has now begun.
The church building along Route 28 (East Ohio Street) was historically designated 11 years ago and has been closed for the past eight years as a worship site. The building and land are owned by St. Nicholas Parish in Millvale.
Groups including Preserve Croatian Heritage had fought to keep the building, if not as a house of worship, then as a repository of Croatian culture. But in July, Allegheny County Judge Robert Colville ordered the city to give St. Nicholas Parish a certificate of hardship which is needed to demolish a historic building. The city decided in October not to appeal Colville's order paving the way for bringing down the structure.
The Rev. Ron Lengwin, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, said the parish has spent $360,000 in maintenance and insurance over the last eight years for the abandoned building and, the ongoing monthly expense of $1,800 consumes 17 percent of the parish’s income.
Lengwin said the parish repeatedly attempted to sell property prior to 2012 but was unable to do so because of "the buyers’ unwillingness to assume liability for a failing structure and to comply with canonical regulations concerning the use of former church buildings."
Lengwin said the unused, deteriorating building has threatened not only public safety but the existence of the Croatian parish through ongoing and unnecessary financial drain on its limited resources.
According to Lengwin, in the Spring of 2011, DTE Consulting, LLC conducted an engineering study of the structures and retaining walls of the East Ohio Street property and identified failing walls, which “could cause [the] entire church to fail (domino effect) and create a catastrophic situation for traffic on State Route 28.”
The DTE study concluded that the building on the East Ohio Street property in its present condition posed “a serious safety threat to the traffic on Route 28” and that “demolition is the most logical and desirable option at the present time.”
Lengwin admitted the parish received an offer to purchase the property after the completion of asbestos abatement and execution of a demolition contract, but the parish declined the offer "in the interest of the safety and welfare of the community and the stability of the parish."