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Renovated House in Oakland Sets Example for Success

July 17, 2008

By F.A. Krift, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Jul. 17–Grace Tudi can’t believe the turnaround of the old Victorian house that sat vacant since 1995 across Parkview Avenue from her South Oakland home.

“This house was dead for years and years,” said Tudi, 76. “It was an eyesore. Oh, I wish you could have seen it before. Now, I think it will be a nice house for a young family.”

The Oakland Planning and Development Corp. hopes so, too, and it wants its renovation project at 3233 Parkview Ave., which it displayed in an open house Wednesday, to be another example of an ongoing neighborhood transformation.

“People don’t realize there is a whole diversity of housing in Oakland,” said David Blenk, executive director of the Oakland Planning and Development board.

Much attention has been paid to dilapidated off-campus student housing in Central Oakland recently. In May, two landlords were fined $460,000 for numerous city code violations, including faulty fire alarms and fire escapes. Tuesday, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg with city building inspectors attended the city’s third annual code sweep through the neighborhood.

Excellent renovation opportunities are available in the neighborhood, Oakland Community Council President Nathan Hart said, and the development corporation’s work on Parkview Avenue is an example of the progress the community has made.

“It fosters neighborhood reinvestment,” Hart said.

The Oakland development corporation has rebuilt or constructed 291 homes in Oakland since 1980, Blenk said. The city took possession of 3233 Parkview Ave. for nonpayment of taxes. According to Allegheny County online property tax records, the OPDC bought it from the city for $1,000 in 2006 when it was near collapse in hopes of reclaiming the century-old structure and putting it on the open real estate market.

It certainly wasn’t easy. The back roof slumped and leaks damaged the walls. The three-story home also wasn’t as vacant as its neighbors thought. It was prime living territory for a family of raccoons as general contractor Aaron Tamasy found out when he poked his head through the roof.

“I saw a 30-pounder, and it hissed at me,” he said. “That was enough to scare me off.”

It’s a completely different situation now for the three-bedroom, wood-frame home with 1.5 bathrooms listed at $167,000.

Robert McPherson, a senior inspector with the City Bureau of Building Inspector, compared the work at 3233 Parkview Ave. to any new construction. He said at the open house that he was impressed with how developers were able to save the structure despite trees growing in the house and the damage he once witnessed.

“It’s now almost like a classic $300,000 house somewhere else,” McPherson said.

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