3 investors have converted an abandoned high school into 31 luxury apartments

Bowtie High in Homestead, Pennsylvania before converting.
Adam Colucci

  • Three real estate investors have bought an abandoned high school near Pittsburgh for $100,000.
  • They spent 18 months, $3.3 million, and converted the former school into 31 apartments.
  • They have kept much of the original layout of the school during the renovation.

In 2019, Jesse Wiig, Adam Colucci, and Dan Spanovic purchased an abandoned school in Homestead, Pennsylvania, for $100,000 in an off-market deal.

Bowtie High had been abandoned for about 10 years, but the trio thought the building had potential.

Starting in 2020, they began converting the former school into 31 flats.

Jesse Wiig, Adam Colucci, and Dan Spanovic are the investors behind the project.

Adam Colucci

The project was put on hold for about a year after the trio purchased the school, as they could not agree on what to do with the building.

“We’ve been talking to some big tenants—a gymnastics crew, a basketball crew, who rent rooms for a recording studio,” Colucci said.

They eventually decided to convert the 55,000-square-foot building near Pittsburgh into an apartment complex.

It took about 18 months to complete and cost about $3.3 million, according to Wig. He said they put $1.3 million into themselves and also took out a $2 million mortgage.

“The beauty of this building was worth what we paid,” Colucci said.

They were only able to use about 20,000 square feet of the building for the apartments.

Chrissy Norman @ C Norman Designs

Colucci said the trio were only able to use about 20,000 square feet of space, as areas including hallways, stairways, gym and auditorium had to be preserved.

They converted most of the classrooms into individual apartments, while dividing some of the large rooms in two.

“I’m really glad we did it this way because the building is so cool,” he said.

They have preserved the original layout of the building.

Adam Colucci

The trio reused some of the original materials from the school, such as the hardwood floors from the old auditorium.

“Preserving the history and reusing the old windows was very challenging,” Colucci said.

Spanovic said he was given all the required material, and at times his stress levels were “off the charts”.

The “wow” factors of the building are the auditorium and the gym.

Adam Colucci

“The really high ceilings, big windows, and a few other features are great,” said Weigh, a 35-year-old investor and real estate agent.

He added that the real “wow” factors were the auditorium, gymnasium, large corridors and crown molding. “The building is unique.”

Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the building starts at $1,400 per month.

Adam Colucci

Spanovic said rents range from $1,150 to $1,450 per month.

Apartments are equipped with stainless steel appliances, built-in washers and dryers, and built-in wardrobes.

Tenancy commenced at Bowtie High in October 2021 and reached 100% occupancy within six months.

Adam Colucci

Residents also have access to the common areas such as the hall with shuffleboard, TV and lounge area.

The building also has additional storage space available to rent to store items such as bicycles or sports equipment.

The trio decide to buy another high school across the street.

Adam Colucci

The trio have since bought another school.

“Maybe I’m just a dreamer, but I knew as soon as we got that first building we needed that second building,” Colucci said.

He said they acquired the second building, which is across the street from Bowtie High, for $90,000.

It was in worse shape and needed a lot of money spent on it, but he said they “had to get it.”

Spanovic said he expects the trio to spend $4 million on renovations when finished.

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The second building will have 33 apartments.

Adam Colucci

The second building will have a rooftop deck with outdoor furniture and a pool table, and residents will be able to use amenities from both blocks.

“There will be some good synergies,” Colucci said.

He added that it would have 33 apartments with the same 14-foot ceiling height as the original classrooms, and concrete floors.

The apartments have attracted the interest of young professionals.

Adam Colucci.

Colucci said the apartments have drawn particular interest from young professionals or graduate students.

He added that they have a good mix of tenants but want to expand and diversify their customer base further.

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