Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh wants a new home

Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh wants a new home

David Ainsman asks Bishop David Zubik a question while Federation President Jeff Finkelstein, center, looks on during a 2011 briefing in one of the meeting spaces at Federation’s offices in Oakland. Stan Franzos photo
David Ainsman asks Bishop David Zubik a question while Federation President Jeff Finkelstein, center, looks on during a 2011 briefing in one of the meeting spaces at Federation’s offices in Oakland. Stan Franzos photo

For $4 million, the Oakland headquarters of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh could be yours. The Jewish community’s umbrella organization is currently entertaining offers for the sale of the property located at 234 McKee Place in the hopes of soon moving to another location in the city.

The 26,280 square foot site houses Federation’s nearly 14,000 square foot office building, an adjacent 2,000 square foot house and parking areas.

Adam Hertzman, Federation’s director of marketing, said that the time has come to move out of the 60-year-old building.

“The biggest impetus is that Federation has outgrown the space,” he explained. “There’s so many elements and needs that the organization has that the building doesn’t accommodate for anymore.

“There’s no space for us to communicate the work that Federation giving does and that’s what it’s all about,” continued Hertzman. “To me that should be the first thing you see when you come to Federation headquarters — something that helps you as a member of the community to understand why it’s important to help people in need and why Federation is a part of that work.”

Hertzman rattled off several deficiencies with the current space.

“There is no really great space to hold events,” he said. “We have a set of conference rooms they can all be combined into one big room, but it’s not a nice space. There is a kosher kitchen, but it’s very small. … The building is not disabled accessible on the second floor; that’s a big deal for us.”

Plans for moving began six years ago at the same time as efforts were made to address disabled accessibility, he said. “There was a decision a couple of years ago as to whether to make some major changes to make it truly accessible and they decided to make a fix to enable handicap accessibility on the second floor, but it’s not true accessibility.”

In addition, said Hertzman, the roof leaks. Security could also be improved. At the end of the day, it makes more economic sense to move than to retrofit the current space to meet current needs. And because the main building is so small, some staff has to work from the adjacent house, known as the Rudolph Building.

In selecting its new home, Federation officials are looking for 22,000 to 30,000 square feet of space that includes parking “or some relatively easy way for our volunteers to get in and out of the Federation building” and remain in proximity to the Jewish community, said Hertzman. “We are conscious of being close or accessible to Jewish Pittsburgh.

“If you look at the largest concentrations of Jews in Pittsburgh they are in Squirrel Hill, the South Hills, Fox Chapel, and then the Wexford, Sewickley, Mars area,” he added. “So it has to be somewhere that’s relatively accessible to those populations.”

Locations currently under consideration are in Oakland, Squirrel Hill, the South Side, the Strip District, Lawrenceville and downtown.

Hertzman cited the Federation-spearheaded Jewish Community Facilities Study as a tool for potentially aiding the move. According to Federation’s 2015 Annual Report, Federation has worked with “19 agencies and congregations in Pittsburgh’s East End to explore space needs collectively.”

“The Jewish Community Foundation has retained the services of Larry Rubin for fiscal year 2015-2016 as a consultant to try to bring some of the Jewish institutions together to reach agreement on one or more scenarios envisioned in this study,” he said. Scenarios included expanding the JCC in Squirrel Hill or moving into a renovated Rodef Shalom Congregation.

Federation’s staff and the community will play a role in determining Federation’s new site, said Hertzman. Real estate broker David Koch of CBRE “is working with us to develop a survey of staff and a community input process to help us gauge not just the needs from Federation’s perspective, but from other stakeholders in Pittsburgh as well.”

While a location has yet to be finalized, Hertzman has some idea of how the space will look.

“The image of the old stodgy Federation is not an accurate portrayal of what Federation is doing and what we are all about,” he said. So planners are looking at options “like different office layout, more collaborative places to work … space that is more modular so we can do more things in the Federation building.”

Direct Energy’s downtown office is an example, said Hertzman. “It’s not hallways and offices; the offices are actually smaller. We don’t need file cabinets in the same way that organizations used to. We don’t need space for storage for paper.”

Other examples are “in other federations that have moved,” he explained. “The federation in Greater Washington, D.C., has a space like this, a big open area that serves five different purposes. In the middle of the space, [there’s a] lunchroom, collaboration area, classroom for small lectures, cafe, place to serve lunch to small groups of leaders in the community, for that matter it’s a space for Jewish community professionals to get together and collaborate.”

Google’s space in Bakery Square is another example.

“What we end up with will be inspired by Google’s’ space in Bakery Square and closer to some of the stripped down reinvented bars in Lawrenceville where it’s a beautiful but low cost vision for making an existing space open and inviting,” said Hertzman.Hertzman said that the goal is to have a new location acquired within six months. As Federation has already received offers on its current home, “without a doubt we will move within two years.”

Adam Reinherz can be reached at

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