Red Bal­loon preschool buys for­mer St. Ig­natius in Scott

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Local Xtra - By Bob Po­durgiel

The Red Bal­loon Early Learn­ing Cen­ter has pur­chased the for­mer St. Ig­natius de Loy­ola Church and school in Scott and plans even­tu­ally to con­sol­i­date its pro­grams there.

The Rev. David Poeck­ing, pas­tor of St. El­iz­a­beth Ann Se­ton parish in Carnegie, closed on the sale last Fri­day of three build­ings on Fin­ley Av­enue — the for­mer St. Ig­natius church, the school and an ad­join­ing priest’s res­i­dence — for $320,000.

Joanne Thralls, owner and di­rec­tor of The Red Bal­loon Learn­ing Cen­ter, said she plans to open in the school by Jan­uary, of­fer­ing the cen­ter’s ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams for chil­dren ages 6 weeks to 12 years old.

Plans call for open­ing the for­mer St. Ig­natius church in the spring of 2018 af­ter re­mod­el­ing to con­vert it into an open-con­ceptlearn­ing space.

“It will be like the Pitts­burgh Chil­dren’s Mu­seum. There will be a lot of space for kids to play and en­gage in ac­tiv­i­ties,” she said.

The Red Bal­looon Early Learn­ing Cen­ter even­tu­ally will close its two cur­rent lo­ca­tions in Scott, one on Lind­say Road and one on Or­chard Street, to con­sol­i­date all op­er­a­tions at the new lo­ca­tion on Fin­ley Av­enue.

About 200 chil­dren are cur­rently en­rolled in pro­grams at the Red Bal­loon Early Cen­ter, with 45 em­ploy­ees and Ms. Thralls plans to hire more at the new lo­ca­tion.

How­ever, she said the move to the Fin­ley Av­enue site will be grad­ual so that cur­rent pro­grams are not dis­rupted. The learn­ing cen­ter is part of the state Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion Pre-K Countspro­gram, she said.

Money from the sale will go to­ward re­duc­ing St. El­iz­a­beth Ann Se­ton parish’s build­ing debt, which is about $1.7 mil­lion.

“The sale will help St. El­iz­a­beth Ann Se­ton parish re­duce its main­te­nance costs and the costs as­so­ci­ated with su­per­vi­sion of the build­ings,” Rev. Poeck­ing said.

The three struc­tures con­tain a to­tal of 32,000 square feet of space. The sale in­cludes 2 acres of sur­round­ing land and two park­ing lots.

Rev. Poeck­ing said he was glad the build­ings will re­main part of the neigh­bor­hood and have a dig­ni­fied use.

In 1992, then-Bishop Don­ald Wuerl merged St. Ig­natius parish with four Carnegie parishes to cre­ate St. El­iz­a­beth Ann Se­ton Parish. St. Ig­natius be­came the parish’s prin­ci­ple church in Septem­ber 2004, af­ter flood­ing caused by Hur­ri­cane Ivan dam­aged the other Ro­man Catholic churches in Carnegie.

In 2011, St. Ig­natius closed and St. El­iz­a­beth Ann Se­ton con­sol­i­dated all of its ser­vices and pro­grams at the for­mer St. Luke’s Church on Third Av­enue in Carnegie af­ter re­con­struc­tion work on the build­ings, which now oc­cupy a full city block.

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