At the corner of Murray and Forward Avenues in Squirrel Hill, in a location once known for seafood-oriented fine dining, there are now 33 new units of affordable housing, 17 with a preference for individuals with intellectual and/or mental health disabilities. On the first two floors, The Branch has its office space and the Sally and Howard Levin Clubhouse, a licensed psychiatric and social rehabilitation program to help adults affected by mental illness lead more productive and meaningful lives.
The $16 million project was supported by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program. The Bank of New York Mellon purchased the tax credits with National Equity Fund as the syndicator and provided construction financing. The Branch and the Urban Redevelopment Authority also provided funding to the project.
Rendering of Seymoure and Corinne Krause Commons
“Krause Commons will help us fulfill our mission more effectively than ever,” says Nancy Gale, The Branch’s executive director. “The expanded space provides room to increase the number of members we serve in the Clubhouse, and creates opportunities for synergies among our programs so we can better serve our participants. We are grateful to ACTION-Housing for helping us empower members of our community to live self-sufficiently and with dignity.”
E.J. Strassburger, who chaired Capital Campaign and has been involved with the project for more than five years, points out “This venture should benefit Squirrel Hill in two important ways. First, increasing diversity by embracing rather than marginalizing people with disabilities enriches not only their lives but also the lives of everyone in the community. And, not insignificantly, this project also promises to jump-start redevelopment of the long-time blighted entrance to Squirrel Hill.”
The Branch and ACTION-Housing have worked diligently over the past several years to solicit community input and gather community support for this project. State Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, Mayor Bill Peduto, and State Representative Dan Frankel worked to secure the State funding. In addition, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition, along with the Urban Redevelopment Authority and City Council Members Corey O’Connor and Dan Gilman contributed to the success of this project.
Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh collaborated with The Branch and ACTION-Housing to garner the necessary support to secure State funding. Jeff Finkelstein, President and CEO of Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, said, “Promoting the The Branch project has been one of Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s most important efforts in our government relations this past year. The building will bring welcome long-term relief for Pittsburgh residents with serious health needs as well as helping to revitalize part of the Squirrel Hill neighborhood.”