We spent $90,000 on an abandoned school, and $4.5 million to convert it into

In 2019, Jesse Wig, Adam Colucci and Dan Spanovich bought an abandoned high school in Homestead, Pennslyvania. The trio bought Bowtie High for $100,000 and converted it into a 31-unit apartment building.

During the renovation of Bowtie High, the school across the street went up for sale, so the partners jumped into a second venture together and bought the Schwab School in for $90,000 in October 2020.

“My partners and I really enjoy taking these buildings from nothing into something,” Spanovich tells CNBC Make It. “Schwab was a building that a lot of people in the community had looked at and had come to the conclusion that it just couldn’t be done. That challenge is really what drives my partners and I.”

Before the trio purchased the building, it was a manual training school named after Charles M. Schwab, an American steel magnate born and raised in Pennsylvania. The Schwab Vocational School closed in 1980, and the building has been abandoned on and off since then, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Scwab School had been abandoned for decades before the three partners bought the property to convert into a residential building.

Malhari Media for CNBC Make It

The trio started the renovation of the Schwab building in April 2022. Spanovich says that the school was in much worse shape than Bowtie High. The project took 18 months to complete.

“When we first entered the building, there were trees growing on the first floor and water had leaked down from the top floor,” Spanovich says. “It was in deplorable condition and had much more structural work that needed to be done.”

The renovation included changing all the windows and converting the top floor of the building — the school’s gym and auditorium — into eight two-story apartments.

Wig, Colucci, and Spanovich went into the project with a budget of $3.2 million and, in the end, spent about $4.5 million renovating the Schwab School. That amount includes a $3.25 million mortgage and $1.25 million of the trio’s own money.

They were able to earn $5,000 of it back by selling an old pickup truck they found in the basement of the abandoned building.

The partners ended up spending about $4.5 million to renovate the Schwab School.

Jesse Wig/ Adam Colucci/ Dan Spanovich/ Malhari Media for CNBC Make It

Just like with Bowtie High, the trio wanted to take advantage of any state and federal tax credits available to them. If their application for federal tax credits is approved, the partners will receive around $800,000.

On the state level, the Pennsylvania state tax credits are a lottery system and the partners are patiently waiting for the results.

After more than a year of work, the converted school is now a 33-apartment building with five two-bedroom units and 28 one-bedroom units.

Rent in the building ranges from $950 to $1,450 for one bedroom and $1,550 to $1,950 for the two-bedroom apartments.

The new building has 28 one-bedroom apartments and five two-bedroom units.

Jesse Wig/ Adam Colucci/ Dan Spanovich/ Malhari Media for CNBC Make It

Since leasing started this spring, the building is at 85% occupancy and turning a profit, Spanovich says.

Because Bowtie High and the Schwab School are across the street, the two are sister buildings.

Residents can take advantage of the amenities in both spaces, which include a double-decker garage, a rooftop deck, a basketball court and a gym.

For now Wig, Colucci, and Spanovich don’t have plans to take on another project together.

Malhari Media for CNBC Make It

With their second project together now complete, Spanovich says there are currently no plans for the trio to take on another one. “For the time being, the band is on sort of a hiatus,” he says.

“Something will happen, we just don’t know when.”

Wig has since bought another school in Homestead and Spanovich has done the same in a different area of the state.

Spanovich and Colucci purchased a former brewery together and are considering turning the space into apartments.

“The best part about these is bringing these old buildings back to life,” Spanovich says.

“The feeling that you get when you walk into this building, knowing what it looked like before and knowing that people said it just couldn’t be done, and seeing life in the building… It’s the best feeling in the world.”

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