Heart of the home

The Mayfair Community Development Corporation, Scioli-Turco, Inc., and BSI Construction held a ribbon cutting of their new Conservatorship property. The property was burnt, but now two years later, is on the market again. (Maria S. Young)

The Mayfair Community Development Corporation demonstrated the theory of addition by subtraction last Friday morning.

As the CDC and its partners cut the ribbon on a newly renovated rowhome at 3446 Ryan Ave., Mayfair lost one abandoned house and gained renewed hope that blight can be eradicated from the neighborhood.

The ceremony marked the culmination of a two-year rehabilitation orchestrated by the CDC under the terms of Pennsylvania’s Act 135, also known as the Abandoned and Blighted Property Conservatorship Act. Introduced by state Rep. John Taylor and passed into law in 2008, the act enables an individual or group like the CDC to take possession of an abandoned or blighted property, to rehabilitate it and to sell it in the absence of the listed owner.

Mayfair CDC is working on several conservator projects trying to rid the neighborhood of eyesore properties. The Ryan Avenue house, which is barely a block from Cottman and Frankford, fit that description and then some before the CDC got involved.

“I would drive by it and it would make me sick to see boards on the windows,” said Joe DeFelice, the CDC chairman and Mayfair Civic Association board member. “That’s not what I want people to see in my neighborhood.”

The plywood that once covered the windows and doors didn’t tell half the story of the atrocious conditions inside the place. “Before” photos taken before the renovations show piles of debris strewn about the floors. In the kitchen, there were overturned chairs, laundry baskets and cabinet drawers, along with papers, cellophane wrappers and other assorted objects from wall to wall.

In what appeared to have been a living room, there were obvious signs of a significant fire. A piano had been burned to a crisp. Black soot covered what was left of the walls. Sheet rock had been smashed in one corner of the room exposing several wall studs.

City records indicate that the property last sold for $140,000 in 2010. DeFelice said it had been vacant for two years before the CDC began Act 135 proceedings two years ago. The CDC hired the nonprofit Scioli-Turco Inc. to manage the conservatorship and BSI Construction to do the rehab work. Mayfair native Ray Brogden was the architect.

“They took it down to the studs and in some cases replaced the studs,” DeFelice said. “They put in a new bath, central air, a new (kitchen) island and wall-to-wall carpeting.”

More than that, they converted the house from a duplex back into its original use, a single family home, removing an upstairs living room and kitchen and restoring the bedrooms.

“It went from eyesore to eye candy. It’s phenomenal,” said Donny Smith, the CDC vice chairman and president of the Mayfair Civic. “To convert this place from a duplex into a single family home, which everybody in the neighborhood wants, is awesome.”

Local Realtor Jennifer Curran from Re/Max Millennium is handling the sale. The house is listed for $165,000, which may seem pricey for the neighborhood, but is comparable to other top-end homes, according to DeFelice. Most homes on the block are assessed at around $140,000, but one sold for $159,000 as recently as 2011. And the CDC site is move-in ready.

Under the terms of Act 135, an owner can reclaim a property from a conservator, but the owner would have to pay any expenses associated with its rehabilitation. If the owner doesn’t show up, the conservator can sell the property with proceeds from the sale used to pay outstanding bills. In any case, the conservator can’t lose money on the deal, although surplus is not guaranteed.

Of course, generating revenue is not the main objective.

“I am pleased to see my legislation being put to effective use in our community to take blighted, vacant properties and return them to productive use,” Taylor said.

Mayfair CDC has other conservatorships in the pipeline on the 3300 block of Bleigh Ave., the 7800 block of Lister St. and the 3200 block of Ryan Ave. Further, the CDC leveraged the possibility of conservatorship to negotiate improvements to 3448 Ryan Ave., next door to the newly rehabilitated house.

DeFelice also credited Tom Forkin, who also serves as a CDC vice chairman; CDC Executive Director Ruthanne Madway; Marc Collazzo and Mia Hylan from Taylor’s office; and CDC sponsor Allegheny Iron and Metal for contributing to the project. ••

The Mayfair Community Development Corporation, Scioli-Turco, Inc., and BSI Construction held a ribbon cutting of their new Conservatorship property. The property was burnt, but now two years later, is on the market again. (Maria S. Young)

Back on the market: The rowhome at 3446 Ryan Ave. in Mayfair has been rehabilitated by the Mayfair Community Development Corporation under the terms of Pennsylvania’s Act 135, which enables an individual or group like the CDC to take possession of an abandoned or blighted property, to rehabilitate it and to sell it in the absence of the listed owner. MARIA S. YOUNG / TIMES PHOTOS