Community members learned about significant changes to the Jewish Association on Aging during a June 6 meeting hosted by the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition.
Attorneys, architects and developers described a phased redevelopment of buildings on the JAA’s Browns Hill Road campus slated to begin next year.
The JAA closed its skilled nursing facility, the Charles Morris Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, in January 2021. It closed The Residence at Weinberg Village at the end of 2022. Both facilities were on the JAA campus.
“It’s really replacing and upgrading what currently exists,” Shawn Gallagher, a real estate attorney with Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, said. The JAA provides various state-licensed skilled care levels — including memory care and personal care — but the facilities “are a little bit outdated, and I think they’ve outlived their useful life.”
Ultimately, the goal is to “eventually demolish everything, but it’s going to be a phased development,” Gallagher added.
The initial step will begin with razing Weinberg Village as well as a “really small portion of the Charles Morris building,” Ian Anderson, of PH7 Architects, said. From there, a five-story structure will be erected with the ground floor featuring a garage, common area and memory care; the second floor will house personal care; and independent living units will be on the third, fourth and fifth floors. Phase one will also involve the installation of an underground stormwater management system.
Once that phase is complete, residents of AHAVA Memory Care will move into the new building, which “frees us up to demolish the rest of the buildings and potentially add on an extension to the phase one [structure],” depending on 2026 market conditions, Anderson added.
A primary benefit of creating a multistory structure for residents requiring different care levels is “it allows people to move into the facility and to age in place,” the architect noted. “JAA is a thriving community organization and the hope is that, and the design is that, this property will be a community for the people that are living there — for the residents — and allows them to stay.”
The JAA is partnering on the multi-year project with Continental Real Estate Cos., a Columbus-based developer.
Mike Hudak, a representative of Continental, said the company has developed “more than $750 million of real estate” during the past 25 years, including projects on the North Side and senior care facilities in Moon and McCandless townships.
Barmi Akbar, of Continental Senior Communities, an affiliate of Continental Real Estate Companies, said collaboration with the JAA is being discussed; however, he envisions JAA providing home and community services for people in the independent living areas, and Continental operating the memory care area as well as providing “amenities that include culinary arts and dining experiences that are very unique for these individuals.”
When asked whether the JAA will remain a kosher-certified facility post-development, Akbar replied, “That’s a question we’re working with [JAA CEO] Mary Anne [Foley], and others at the JAA. We’ve formally contracted with advisers that have developed multiple Jewish affiliate communities, and the trend right now, to be honest, is it is a diverse group that is living with us today…I’m comfortable saying that today at the JAA we do have a diverse group. Looking at a certified-kosher facility, we want to make sure that we have the right advisers, and that we understand the impact and the consequences to it. So there hasn’t been a final decision made today.”
A JAA representative did not reply to the Chronicle’s request for follow-up regarding the decision of whether to remain a kosher-certified facility.
Hudak described total development expenses as “significant.”
“Right now, we’re looking at the vertical construction costs for the building at roughly $50 million, and, on top of that, is site improvement costs of roughly $7 million, and, on top of that, is the expenses of our esteemed attorney, and architect, and all of our consultants and purchase prices,” he said. “It’s a very significant investment, to say the least. And again, that’s phase one.”
“We believe that this is going to be a great development,” Gallagher said.
Moving forward, two separate city approvals are needed: zoning approval and plan approval.
“We’re hoping to get on to the Planning Commission’s agenda for review after the summer break,” Gallagher said.
A hearing with the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment is scheduled for July 6.
Maria Cohen, Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition’s executive director, said that in serving as “the unbiased host” of the June 6 meeting, the organization “gives voice to the hopes and concerns of our residents, institutions, businesses and visitors, and works to preserve and improve and celebrate the quality of life in our vibrant Squirrel Hill neighborhood.”
For that reason, she continued, “if you have strong feelings about the project you should consider attending the board or commission meeting and testifying.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at email@example.com.