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New Life for an Old School in Wilkes-Barre

WILKES-BARRE — The bell no longer rings, the chalkboards are gone, but the lessons haven’t ended at the former Sacred Heart Catholic School — and this one was about the power of restoration.

The historic property along North Main Street in the Diamond City housed many students during its life as a school, and now it has been reinvented and re-purposed — as an apartment building!

“It brings back memories, it brings back some very happy memories,” said Anna Hudock of Wilkes-Barre. Hudock, like many of her other former classmates, made the pilgrimage to their old school to get a first glimpse at the new conversion.

“Nice sized bedrooms, beautiful kitchens, they did a fabulous job,” added Sharon Valentukonis of Dallas.

The building where many in the north-side neighborhood grew up is now home to 30 brand new apartments, trading classrooms for living rooms and lockers for large picturesque windows to take in the new view.

The developers — immigrants from Kosovo — were committed to saving history.

“You have to be positive, you try to preserve the building as much as possible,” said developer Marcello Ahmeti. “The structure is very solid, why someone would want to tear down this building is beyond me.”

“My heart is feeling very good because we saved church and school,” added co-developer Sam Hysni Syla.

Church members fought for many years to keep the doors of Sacred Heart open, even going so far as to appeal to the Vatican. Despite their tireless efforts, the final mass was held in 2011.

“This building and property could have been blighted,” Steven Barrouk of Mericle Commercial Real Estate said. “It could have had all sorts of issues associated with it that would have brought the neighborhood down.”

The former church portion is now a gallery filled with art, and former parishioners say that seeing both buildings in use is a comfort.

The apartments’ rent ranges anywhere from $600 to $1,200 dollars, featuring one or two bedrooms.