Buying Here: Deutschtown
Even by North Side standards, 621 Tripoli St. was a challenge.
The original 1890s brick townhouse was intact, but the later wood-frame addition on the back was crumbling and falling away, and raccoons had made themselves at home. Worst of all to an old-house lover, someone had cut into the front facade and installed a picture window, probably in the 1970s.
The window is history now, as is the early 20th-century addition, replaced by a new wood-frame rear section containing the kitchen, part of the dining room and a second-floor bedroom. The two-bedroom, 11/2-bath house is on the market for $219,900 through Teekie Smith of Coldwell Banker Real Estate’s Shadyside office (412-708-1588 or www.pittsburghmoves.com, MLS No. 826966).
Ms. Smith says the house is a perfect blend of old character and new amenities.
At a glance
- Website: www.deutschtown.org
- Size: .236 square miles
- Population: 2,635 (2000 census)
- School district: Pittsburgh Public, www.pghboe.net
- Enrollment: about 28,000
- Average SAT scores: 358 verbal; 383 math; 362 writing (2009, Oliver High School)
- Taxes for a house assessed at $100,000: $2,941; County: $469 (4.69 mills); City: $1,080 (10.8 mills); School: $1,392 (13.92 mills)
- Wage tax: 3 percent (1 percent to the city, and 2 percent to the school district)
- A bit of history: Deutschtown — also known as East Allegheny and Dutchtown — dates back to the mid-1800s and grew as the City of Allegheny expanded eastward. As its name implies, it was once the heart of Pittsburgh’s German-speaking community. It is still headquarters for the 150-year-old Teutonia Maennerchor, the largest German singing society and social club in the region. The neighborhood was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
“The developers have tried their hardest to preserve anything original,” she said. “The hardware is wonderful. There are locks and latches that I’ve never seen before. But it’s also got new floors, air conditioning, a second-floor laundry, off-street parking [two spaces] and a big backyard.”
This is the fifth project in the past 10-15 years involving the Northside Leadership Conference and East Allegheny Community Council, says Greg Jones, project manager for the Northside Leadership Conference. Al Depasquale and October Development were the general contractors on this renovation and another at 517 Tripoli. Mr. Depasquale is also the developer and contractor on three new houses going up around the corner on James Street.
In late 2008 and early 2009, October Development finished building three new brick houses and renovating two old ones in the 900 block of James. The three new townhouses sold for $229,000 each and the old ones for $190,000 and $165,000, respectively.
“The new ones sold before construction,” Mr. Jones noted. “The speed and price were unprecedented in this area.”
This part of the North Side is usually called East Allegheny or Historic Deutschtown in recognition of its large German population in the late 19th century. It was divided by construction of the Parkway North in the 1980s. Many century-old brick townhouses remain, along with more modest wood-frame dwellings. Some have been renovated, but not as many as in nearby Allegheny West and the Mexican War Streets, where houses are generally more expensive.
Mr. Jones said buyers are fairly evenly divided between young professionals and older empty-nesters, many of whom are familiar with the North Side and its historic yet affordable housing stock.
“They say, ‘My friend bought one in this neighborhood.’ It’s a limited supply but a heck of a market. They often sell by word of mouth,” he said.
“These people have an interest in historic restoration. They know what they’re getting into. They get a house with some character that has a story to it.”
Adding to the attraction is a 10-year abatement on city and school property taxes and a three-year abatement on county taxes that can save buyers as much as $30,000 to $40,000, he said. Depending upon income, they may also qualify for a second, deferred mortgage, Ms. Smith said.
The home at 621 Tripoli is unusual in that it was renovated with no public subsidy through funding from the Northside Community Development Fund. The design/build process used reduced the need for an architect and sped construction. Luckily, many of the old doors and much of the hardware and trim were reusable, as was the original staircase and mantels on the two decorative fireplaces. Preservation expert Nick Kyriazi, a longtime member of the East Allegheny Community Council, even came up with old lighting fixtures for the first floor.
“They were restored and rewired. They’re stunning,” Ms. Smith said.
Although the front parlor and floor plan were retained, the new rear section is very open, with granite countertops in the new 13-by-13-foot kitchen. The new powder room is tucked away nearby, and the large modern bathroom upstairs serves bedrooms measuring 17 by 15 feet and 17 by 13 feet, respectively, each with large closets. The developers opted to make the third floor a storage area rather than living space (the ceiling height is only about 6 feet).
The East Allegheny Community Council bought the property for $9,900 in June 2008, and its assessed market value is $9,000 (www2.county.allegheny.pa.us). Five properties have sold on Tripoli in the past three years for prices ranging from $17,500 in July 2009 to $215,000 in September 2009 for the October Development rehab at 517 Tripoli. One property sold twice (www.realstats.net).
This house is three blocks away from Allegheny General Hospital and Allegheny Commons Park and 5-10 minutes waking distance from Downtown, Heinz Field and PNC Park. An open house will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. this Sunday and next Sunday.