The McCleary School Condos could be a lesson in reusing an old building for a new purpose, while retaining the original character. The 25 unique, custom-designed residential units in the abandoned school feature 12-foot ceilings and include details such as original chalkboards — in some cases lining entire walls — built-in shelves, marble staircases, graceful archways, and ornate metal work, currently a faded fire-engine red.

Even under construction the entry is striking, with two center atrium staircases of marble opposite each other and a soaring ceiling open in the middle with an original circular banister. The building, located on Holmes Street off Stanton Avenue in a residential neighborhood, was constructed in 1900 and closed in 2008.

The McCleary School condos entry as it looks today. Photo by Tracy Certo

The McCleary School condos entry as it looks today. Photo by Tracy Certo

Developer Emeka Onwugbenu, a native of Nigeria and founder of E Properties and Development, said it was important to preserve the architecture of the two-story building with basement, make the project environmental-friendly, and provide “a piece of history at an affordable price.”

He also stressed the importance of being a good neighbor and at the end of his remarks introduced Ray, who was among the dozens gathered in the school parking lot for the groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday. “Ray is the unofficial security guard who lives across the street,” Onwugbenu said.

Emeka Onwugbenu

Developer Emeka Onwugbenu of E. Properties and Development greets visitors at the unveiling of the McCleary School Condos. Photo by Tracy Certo.

“The plan was aspirational,” said Matthew Galluzo, head of Lawrenceville United to the crowd. As one example of an environmental element, he noted that “the entire site is being wrapped in filtration tree beds, a big win for the neighborhood.”

And the price point is lower than typical for Lawrenceville — which has experienced a dramatic spike in real estate prices in recent years — with a starting price of $150,000 for a 1000 square-foot condo. “It’s mixed-income, multi-generational housing for all,” Galluzzo added. The units range in size from 750 to 1800 square feet.

The school, said architect Andrew Moss of moss architects who designed the project, will “be a keystone once again, bringing new residents and activity back in this area.”

Mayor Bill Peduto took part in the groundbreaking and told the diverse audience that the project was noteworthy for its location above 40th St. in Lawrenceville. “Investment is occurring throughout Pittsburgh,” he said, pointing to activity in Stanton Heights and beyond as more and more of the city — beyond the usual hot neighborhoods — experiences an increase in development activity.

More than half of the units, which range in price from $150,000 to $535,000 for condos and $459,000 to $469,000 for townhouses, have been sold during the pre-construction phase, according to the developers. Buyers of the McCleary School Condos are eligible for a 10-year real estate tax abatement.

The condo project will include an outdoor courtyard with a permeable surface, a 24-hour fitness center, a rooftop deck and indoor parking.

McCleary  is the latest residential development in the city’s Lawrenceville neighborhood, which includes the Doughboy Square Apartments which opened last year, and is soon to be joined by Foundry 41, an extensive rehab of an old metal foundry on Willow Street, complete with the creation of a large public space.