As of Jan. 2, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has a new home. After nearly six decades at 234 McKee Place in Oakland, the umbrella organization headed a mile and a half southwest to 2000 Technology Drive. With its abundance of natural light, movable furniture, multiple meeting spaces and chic cafe, the Federation’s new home may seem like an ideal setting, but locating the spot was not so simple. The Federation initially began exploring the idea in 2008, “when we realized we needed more space,” said the organization’s CFO, Milo Averbach.
Given the market crash back then, the Federation delayed any further thoughts of moving until 2011. At the time, Billy Rudolph was asked to chair the Federation’s building committee, in which Averbach and other senior staff participated. In the years following, the committee considered adding a third floor to 234 McKee Place, razing the building and starting anew or even relocating.
“Ideally the Federation wanted to be in Squirrel Hill or Oakland,” said Averbach.
The problem was parking. Each neighborhood presented constraints, so the group explored buildings downtown and in the Strip District.
Two years ago, once it was determined the Federation would sell its Oakland property and relocate, Rudolph, who serves as president and CEO of McKnight Realty Partners, stepped away from the group and David Sufrin took charge given a potential conflict, explained Averbach.
In late 2017, the Federation agreed to sell 234 McKee Place and the adjacent Rudolph building at 232 McKee Place to Walnut Capital and signed a three-year lease to remain on site while researching other venues.
In May 2018, Adam Herzman, Federation’s director of marketing, said the Federation was “in final negotiations” on a 10-year lease at 2000 Technology Drive.
At the time, Andrew Stewart, principal of Tech Drive Partners, LLC, the legal entity under which Silk & Stewart are renting the building, said in a statement, “We’re excited to have the Jewish Federation join our other tenants.”
Stewart is a board member of the Federation, who recused himself from possible conflicts, said Averbach.
After the lease was finalized, and following the prior tenant’s exit, the space was “gutted,” added the CFO.
In its wake a beautiful area emerged. Large unobstructed windows abut the Monongahela River and the Birmingham Bridge. Eight rooms afford the ability to congregate or “huddle,” and there are even phone booths for placing or accepting private phone calls, noted Averbach.
Desks can be utilized in a standing or seated position, there are an abundance of whiteboards, storage shelves convert into benches and there is a reliance on motion detector lights, noted Hertzman during a tour of the facility one day after the Federation received a building occupancy permit on Jan. 2.
“I think there are many advantages both to the new space and to the location. It will be easier to access for people in the South Hills and probably for people in the North Hills area because it’s right off of the highway,” said Hertzman.
The abundance of parking is also a boon, noted Averbach, who added that the Federation needs about 75 spaces for staff and volunteers.
Though renovations are continuing on site, it is important to note “no campaign proceeds” are being used, said the CFO.
“Proceeds from the sale of the building or other building endowment funds” are paying the costs.
Added Hertzman, “We’re really excited to begin a new chapter for the Jewish Federation in a space that reflects our more modern way of working.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org