Northside benefits from RACP funds
Photo: A project to renovate the Allegheny YMCA is set to receive $2 million from Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP). Contributed photo
By Sean P. Ray | Managing Editor
Multiple Northside renovation and construction projects are receiving a big boost in funding, thanks to Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP).
In the latest round of grant funding from the program, which was announced in the fall, a total of nine Northside-centric projects were identified as receiving funding. The amounts given ranged from $500,000 to $10 million, according to a spreadsheet released by the state.
The RACP is administered by the Pennsylvania Office of the Budget, and is used for the “acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational, and historical improvement projects,” according to the Office of the Budget website.
For the Allegheny YMCA, located at 600 W. North Ave., the money is an “absolutely critical” piece of a wider fundraising campaign, according to Carolyn Grady, chief development officer for the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh.
The Allegheny YMCA is set to receive $2 million out of a requested $5 million for a major renovation of the 97-year-old building. Grady said the YMCA anticipates spending between $15 to $16 million for the entire project, but the RACP funding was needed to attract new market tax credit investors, who will likely fund the majority of the project.
Grady said the YMCA needed to show “significant support” for the project before they would be able to attract such investors, and it’s important for the organization to amass as much funding as possible before going public for investors or other fundraising.
Despite falling $3 million short of their maximum request, Grady said the YMCA is very happy with the amount they received.
“I would never say no to more, but we were very pleased with the outcome,” she said. “We knew it was a very competitive process.”
The YMCA’s total project will see a “top to bottom renovation” of the building, Grady said. Changes will include making the building more accessible to people with disabilities and renovations to allow the YMCA to offer childcare at the building at some future point.
“The Northside has changed a lot and this is a wonderful opportunity for the Y to continue to be relevant,” Grady said.
One major area of renovation will be to the building’s third, fourth and fifth floors, which consist of 105 single room occupancy (SRO) rooms. The current SRO rooms lack HVAC systems and have communal bathrooms, including shared showering spaces. Grady said the YMCA hopes to install proper heating systems and private restrooms for its residents.
“It’s important we continue to maintain as many of the rooms as possible because this is a significant number of the city’s SRO population,” she said.
Current residents at the facility will be able to continue living there during renovations. Work will occur one floor at a time, so the residents will simply move floors to avoid being in the way of construction.
The YMCA hopes to have funding finalized for the project by November of 2023, with construction to start around March of 2024.
The Urban Impact Foundation is set to receive $1 million of RACP funding out of a requested $2 million for the renovation of the group’s North Charles Street Campus. Urban Impact purchased two buildings from The Pittsburgh Project in May, and plans to renovate them into a centralized space for the foundation to work out of, according to Director of Development Peter Ward.
“We were spread out across four different locations since before the pandemic, and so securing this location and renovations that we will be doing will give us a permanent home,” Ward said.
Urban Impact is a faith-based organization which runs programs mainly focusing on Northside youth. The foundation has around 1,500 students enrolled in its programs yearly, Ward said, and its programs are centered around the fields of athletics, performing arts, education and workforce development.
Ward said Urban Impact was not even aware of RACP as a concept until July of this year, and the group is “delighted” to receive the support that it did, even if it wasn’t the full $2 million. The renovations as a whole are expected to cost more than $2 million, and the group is pursuing other avenues of funding.
Urban Impact hopes to have their renovations complete by the end of 2024. Although the buildings were purchased from The Pittsburgh Project, that group is still operating at the campus and Ward said the renovations will benefit both organizations.
Another Northside entity to receive RACP funding as part of a wider fundraising campaign is the National Aviary, which is the beneficiary of $500,000 of funding from the program out of $5 million requested to help fund a new veterinary hospital, as well as new habitats and programming space.
Laurie Nicholl, director of philanthropy at the National Aviary, told The Chronicle in an email that the project is “part of a multi-year capital improvement plan” of which the aviary is still in the planning stages.
The new veterinary center the funding will help support will include viewing areas, where visitors will be able to watch as animal care experts provide routine care to the aviary’s birds.
“This new veterinary care and advancement center will help the National Aviary maintain and further our high standards of care for the more than 500 animals living here,” Nicholl wrote in an email. “The state-of-the-art design and equipment in the new facility will help us continue our work to make advancements in avian medicine that helps birds around the world.”
Nicholl said the National Aviary is “grateful” to have received support from the RACP, and will continue to seek further funding sources for the project moving forward.
One of the listed projects is not for a Northside organization, but will end up benefiting the neighborhood. Verland — a non-profit agency in Ohio Township, Pennsylvania — is set to receive $500,000 to help fund the construction of a “Signature Home” in the Northside.
Signature Homes are one-story residences Verland builds which are made from the ground up to accommodate people with disabilities, according to Abigayle Tobia, vice president of philanthropy for Verland. Such accommodations could include oversized garages for easier wheelchair navigation or the installation of smart technology.
“The funding is critical to the project,” Tobia said of the RACP grant. “We find that philanthropic support is necessary for each of the Signature Homes that we build.”
Verland is still working to determine where exactly in the Northside the home will be built. Tobia said the non-profit tries to look for relatively flat areas of land, something she said is a challenge in Pittsburgh.
Once a site is chosen, Tobia said construction generally takes around six months, but delays could occur due to supply chain issues. The home will be the third Signature Home built by Verland once completed.
Other Northside projects receiving RACP funds include: $1 million to the Andy Warhol Museum for a live event and programming venue; $3 million to Astrobotic for a new, four-story facility; $729,987 to Brighton Heights Healthy Active Living Center for renovations to the second floor; $10 million for the Esplanade Development by Piatt Companies, for a riverfront recreational complex; and $3 million for the redesign and renovation of the former Horace Mann School into residential and commercial spaces.
The Chronicle reached out to several of the other organizations receiving funding, but did not receive replies by press time.