The couple — she's in her late 50s and he's in his early 60s — had purchased eight acres of land in South Hills and were planning to build a new home when Lisa had her surgery. She had a bit of an epiphany in the midst of it.
"Sometime after the surgery, I looked at John and said, 'I don't want to build a house anymore,' " she said.
While she realizes she's exchanged one project for another, this one excites her.
"I love it," she said of her return to project management. She's as much a part of the team as their architect, David Marshall, and contractor, MCS Construction.
Work is underway in earnest and the buildings are stripped and dusty. There's been asbestos removal to deal with and a few treasures uncovered.
"You always find something fun," Lisa said of older buildings. "I needed to find something fun."
She found it when carpeting and asbestos tile were stripped from the first floor of the old Merrill Photo storefront: a mosaic tile floor.
"I'm so excited about this floor," Lisa said.
While the building needs to be updated, including a new elevator, staircase and even a small parking structure in the rear, Lisa said it's rock solid.
Their immediate focus is first-floor renovations for the art gallery, which will take over the two storefronts after an opening is made in the connecting wall. Lisa envisions an industrial look, with exposed brick used to advantage.
"I'm still figuring out how to light it, because light is important for art," she said. The framing component of the business may be located on the first levels or on the second floor of the larger building.
Lisa plans to move the gallery in early 2014, after the holiday season and before her scheduled spring art shows.
The Castos then will begin envisioning their new living space.
"I'd rather not think about going through my house yet," she said. "One thing at a time."
The couple will live on either the third or fourth floor — the appeal to the third floor being its 12-foot ceilings as opposed to the fourth floor's 10-foot ones. Remaining space not occupied by the gallery or the Castos will be available for lease. The Castos hope to see someone else interested in downtown living.
Lisa is in her element but admits this is a bit scary, too.
"You still get that thing in the pit of your stomach sometimes," she said.
Contact writer Monica Orosz at mon...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4830.