South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

Brashear building on track, driven by programming needs


Last updated 11/6/2019 at 8:32pm

Two years ago at its 100th Anniversary celebration The Brashear Association announced an ambitious plan to build a 40,000 sq. ft. building on Brownsville Road in Knoxville.

Recognizing its clientele was predominately from the Hilltop neighborhoods, Brashear’s Board of Directors felt the Association should be located where their services were needed and being utilized. After an extensive search process, a preferred site in the 300 block of Brownsville Road was chosen.

Running parallel with the plans for a new neighborhood center was that the long-time executive director of Brashear, Hugh Brannan, would be retiring and a search for a new would soon begin.

Complicating things was a convoluted property acquisition plan involving purchasing property from multiple owners. The process slowed down when the association’s property acquisition consultant became ill and passed away before control of all the properties was complete.

Andrea Matthews, Brashear’s new executive director, said another consultant who was already familiar with the association and its plans was brought in and they now have site control of the desired properties. The original plan was to incorporate the LifeSpan building with several adjacent properties for a 40,000 sq. ft. building.

One of the approaches they are now exploring is building the new facility in phases: Building out the LifeSpan building first before moving forward with new construction. Ms. Matthews said they will be able to build programming while still raising a lower amount for the first phase of the millions needed for the project. The second phase would be the new construction adjoining the existing LifeSpan building.

In the meantime, she expects to “clean up” the lots Brashear has purchased to the right of LifeSpan and return them to greenspace while they are being prepped for the new construction.

As for the ground-breaking for the new building that was hoped for in the fall of this year, she says it should take place in fall of 2020. In the meantime, Brashear will soon look at beginning programming in the LifeSpan building on Brownsville Road.

As part of that programming, Ms. Matthews said they have leased the second floor of LifeSpan and she will soon begin working out of an office there. Brashear will also begin teen programming will also begin after the first of the year out of LifeSpan.

They envision the LifeSpan space it as a safe place for teens to be with age appropriate activities. The plan is to start meeting with teens over Christmas break to learn what they want and then to begin programming in February.

“It’s part of the move to have programming drive process,” she said. “I don’t believe anyone funds a building, they fund the programming that drives a building. So, we want to focus on programming.”

To learn more about what the community members want in programming, Brashear will be forming a Steering Committee consisting of “at least 30” members of the 11 neighborhoods the association serves. Residents and businesses will be represented on the committee.

The committee will meet once a month to discuss the needs of the community through resident input and examine data received through various sources. They’ll recommend what new programs are needed and where those programs should take place.

“They’ll make sure we’re on the right track with our programming,” Ms. Matthews said.

Brashear will be doing a needs assessment of the communities through a survey of residents utilizing graduate school social worker interns. A staff person will also be attending community meetings gaining input and telling Brashear’s story.

Another new initiative will be Brashear CARES, or Community Access to Resources, Education & Employment Services. People will be encouraged to become members of the association. The structure is still being worked out, but for a monthly donation, members may receive discounts to Brashear events such as the upcoming Bravo! Brashear or access to the Brashear Center.

Ms. Matthews said currently the center is under utilized and they are considering renting out the Museum and Social rooms for small events. Aside from generating an income from the rental of the space, she said it would also generate good will in the community and provide an opportunity for those attending to become Brashear CARES members.

The new facility on the Hilltop, when completed, will also be accessible to the community. Aside from the opportunities to use the rent space, Ms. Matthews sees the facility as being available to host classes and events and as an employment opportunity for local residents to work in the building.

Ms. Matthews said even with the planned move to the Hilltop, Brashear is dedicated to maintaining services in South Side.

“I’m committed Brasher will always have a presence on the South Side. We don’t have to own a building to do that.”


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