By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporer Editor 

Brashear unveils plans for Hilltop Community Center

New building planned for Brownsville Road in Knoxville

 

December 5, 2017

Brashear Association's planned new Hilltop Community Center will be a 38,000 sq. ft. building in the 300 block of Brownville Road in Knoxville.

Brashear Association invited area residents to LifeSpan's Knoxville center to learn more about plans for a new Hilltop community center.

Plans call for the new community center to integrate the existing LifeSpan building on Brownsville Road, several vacant lots and to demolish two existing buildings next to the former St. Clair Bank building. The new center will be approximately 38,000 square feet.

Tom Smith, outgoing president of the association's board of directors, explained it isn't a move to the Hilltop, Brashear has been there through the years with locations in the former St. Clair Village and Arlington Heights, the Neighborhood Employment Center and the Allentown Learning and Engagement Center on Warrington Avenue, the Henry Kaufmann Center attached to the Arlington Gym and in the Pet Shoppe building in Mt. Oliver.


In the association's last strategic planning process, the board of directors identified a need for Brashear to have a greater physical presence on the Hilltop. Utilizing a grant from the Heinz Endowments, Brashear contracted with Karen Brean and Associates to identify where clients come from, present and future, the locations of existing providers, transportation opportunities and more.

Criteria was also developed to facilitate a search for a location. The Brashear Board of Directors wanted a location on a major route on the Hilltop – Arlington Avenue, Warrington Avenue or Brownsville Road; Near a bus route to assist clients in getting to the center; Walkable for Hilltop residents; Accessible for food pantry loading and unloading; and, vacant land or unoccupied buildings.


The Association enlisted Jack Johnson of Jaxon Development to aid in the search for a location. Mr. Jackson identified 43 possible sites on the Hilltop.

Brashear Board's Strategic Plan Committee visited each site, narrowing down the list to a possible three. One on each of the main roads.

Data provided by Brean and Associates noted the geographic center of Brashear's client base was located about a block away from the LifeSpan center along with a projected increase in need for services in the Brownsville Road corridor, it was determined the best location for the new Hilltop Community Center was in the 300 block of Brownsville Road.

Contributing factors included synergy with LifeSpan and the recently renovated Carnegie Library of PittsburghKnoxville.

Ms. Brean, now a Brashear Board member, explained in taking a look at the trends in the Hilltop and understanding the client base, the chosen location is the "100 percent location."

"It seems very clear this is a very important place to be," she added. The project is looked at as not just a location to deliver services for Brashear and its partners, but also as an economic generator for the Hilltop communities.


In addition to housing Brashear's programs, such as the food pantry and family self-sufficiency and youth services, the new center will include partners The Birmingham Foundation and LifeSpan. In addition, Brashear is committed to expanding its services to youth above the age of 12 in the new facility.

Peter Margittai, from Margittai Architects, said the main entrance of the building will be on Brownsville Road with administration offices on the upper level and youth services on the lower level. The lower level will be accessible from Ibis Way.

The lower level will include Brashear's food pantry and LifeSpan's home delivered meals program along with a loading zone. Youth programing space will also be located off of Ibis Way with large windows to allow natural light into the space.

One feature on the lower level is a two-story multi-purpose space with a glass enclosure on the main floor. The space could be used for community meetings or as a play space by the youth programs. The glass enclosure will allow visitors to view the space from the main floor.

An angled "Community Connector" will welcome visitors to the main reception area on Brownsville Road. The angle of the entrance will face toward the Mt. Oliver Clock Tower plaza.

The main floor of the center will continue to house LifeSpan programming. In addition, space is planned for teen programs and a "theater" kitchen which could be used for cooking demonstrations or classes. Space is also reserved for Brashear programing and offices.

The upper floor will include administrative offices for Brashear and The Birmingham Foundation.

Area residents questioned what the hours the center would be open. Hugh Brannan said the hours are expected to be the same as LifeSpan and Brashear's current hours. Depending on the day's programing or if a community meeting is held in the building, hours could range from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., or later if an event is taking place.

Concerning loading and unloading and parking, it's expected the center will continue to have a loading zone in front on Brownsville Road and on the lower level on Ibis Way. Parking is being considered for a nearby vacant lot.

A Knoxville resident suggested Brashear request Ibis Way and Grape Street be made one-way streets. She felt the change would prevent congestion and make the narrow streets safer.

The building project is still in the pre-construction phase with a ground breaking anticipated in the summer of 2018. Construction will take about 14 months.

 

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