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Identity & Community

Centenarian Church Gets Block Party On Sunday

A Shadyside church building’s future is the focus of a free block party from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday.

The 109-year-old Albright United Methodist Church building has seen better days and is in need of repairs that the congregation can’t afford, according to lifelong member Abass Kamara.

The congregation, who moved out in November 2013 due to heating problems, water damage and the need for plaster repairs in the sanctuary, must decide whether to sell the building or demolish it, he said.

“Broadly what we’d like to see done is a reuse of the building that maintains (its) integrity," he said.

It could become a community house or "nexus point for non-profits,” Kamara said.

“Whatever the building becomes ... I think that building has a historical and important impact on that neighborhood and this community,” he said.

Ideally, the block party will remind locals and introduce newcomers to their historic neighbor. The building hosted decades of Thanksgiving dinners, served as a temporary home for area non-profits and became a spiritual touchstone for countless members over its long life, Kamara said.

It's personal for him, he said. His parents married there, and he was baptized and confirmed at the church.

Lindsay Patross, one of the founders of Friends of Albright, said churches in the area were built to be community spaces. She said she hopes that spirit of congregation spreads, and that the building won't be destroyed before residents can express their opinions.

“I think this is an important conversation for the community to have around historic buildings," she said. "I would also really like to see it continue to function as a community space.”

Albright's location could be ideal for the right tenant or buyer, she said, because of its proximity to universities, hospitals and the east busway.

Graham Street off Centre Avenue will be closed for the event to make room for food trucks. Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse is scheduled to run creative activities.