Riverview to affiliate with JAA and begin $17 million renovation
Community updatesRiverview will now operate as an affiliate of JAA

Riverview to affiliate with JAA and begin $17 million renovation

The affiliation agreement, which will end "unspoken tension" between the two groups, aims to increase efficiency and improve services for its residents and constituents.

A view of construction of the construction at Riverview Towers. (Photo by Jim Busis)
A view of construction of the construction at Riverview Towers. (Photo by Jim Busis)

After sharing the same Squirrel Hill campus for decades, Riverview Towers Apartments, Inc. — which provides affordable housing for senior citizens — and the Jewish Association on Aging have entered into a new operating structure which their respective leaders say will enhance both entities.

Riverview, a nonprofit established in 1965 that is subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), will now operate as an affiliate of the JAA. The JAA offers a variety of services and living options for senior citizens, including “everything from Meals on Wheels to home rehab to full scale nursing to housing with personal care,” said Andrew Stewart, chair of the JAA.

Both Riverview and the JAA are beneficiary agencies of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

The new affiliation agreement aims to increase efficiency and improve services for its residents and constituents.

“We’re in an environment today where our community cannot afford to be inefficient about how we deliver services to our constituents,” Stewart said. “We’re seeing the consolidation across the entire spectrum of nonprofits, and the Jewish community is no different.”

The JAA, which operates 11 business units including Charles Morris Nursing and Rehabilitation, Ahava Memory Care and Sivitz Jewish Hospice & Palliative Care, is a “$38 million a year operation,” according to Stewart. Riverview’s yearly budget is about $2 million.

Resources that the JAA and Riverview will share pursuant to the new agreement include development, accounting, security, programming and dietary services.

“We view our affiliation with Riverview as an opportunity to extend our delivery of services to a group of people who would greatly benefit from them, and clearly, we want to serve people who need to live in subsidized housing,” Stewart said.

Riverview’s affiliation with the JAA will help seniors to “age in place,” in addition to increasing “overhead efficiency,” said Deborah Winn-Horvitz, president and CEO of the JAA.

Riverview will be undergoing “significant” upgrades, financed through almost $17 million in tax credits that Riverview was granted by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency last spring. The upgrades will include the conversion of several efficiency units to one- and two-bedroom apartments.

Forty of the renovated units will be designated as “unrestricted,” meaning they will be available to residents of any income, and will be leased at “market rate,” according to Stewart. Those apartments will provide housing for seniors whose yearly income exceeds that which is required to be eligible for low income housing.

“We’re excited about that,” Stewart said. “Now we can offer housing for other people in our community, or maybe some of our staff.”

There will be 191 total available units — reduced from 221 — resulting from the renovations. Residents who are currently living in the buildings and whose units are undergoing reconstruction will be temporarily relocated to other units during the work period. Those residents living in units receiving only cosmetic upgrades will be allowed to remain in their apartments in the evening, as work will be done during daytime hours, according to Winn-Horvitz.

Riverview will remain a “stand-alone entity,” its own 501(c)(3), but voting control will be in the hands of the JAA, Winn-Horvitz said. Riverview’s board will be downsized to five members, and those board members will be appointed by the JAA, she added.

Hannah Steiner, the executive director of Riverview, will report to Winn-Horvitz as Riverview is “brought under the JAA umbrella,” said Winn-Horvitz.

The affiliation agreement will end years of “unspoken tension” between Riverview and the JAA, according to Robert Bernstein, chair of Riverview’s board of directors.

“It seemed that there was a sense of competition, although [Riverview and the JAA] didn’t compete in any service areas,” said Bernstein, who has been on Riverview’s board for more than seven years.

When Bernstein became chairman of Riverview’s board about two years ago, he got in touch with JAA’s then board chair, Mitchell Pakler, and the two leaders talked about their respective organization’s histories and their common mission, common needs, common constituents and common supporters. They decided then that it would be prudent to combine forces, according to Bernstein.

“We could not find a negative to not do it,” Bernstein said. “We wanted to create a community on campus, and eliminate the divisiveness.”

Discussions widened to include other board members from the two organizations.

With the help of the Federation in securing its tax credit funding to refurbish and improve its buildings, Riverview leadership was ready to partner with the JAA, Bernstein said.

The addition of the 40 units that will be available at market rate will not only provide more flexibility in terms of housing options for senior citizens, but will also provide more income to Riverview, noted Bernstein.

The market rate units are expected to be ready beginning in 2019, he said.

Riverview Towers will change its name to The New Riverview. PJC

Toby Tabachnick can be reached at ttabachnick@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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