At Work on The Ground | Neighborhood Allies’ Shared Real Estate Talent Program Builds Capacity and Unlocks Capital

Jan 15, 2019

Neighborhood Allies’ Shared Real Estate Talent Program was created to assist CDCs, CBOs, and emerging community-driven developers to successfully complete real estate projects and find appropriate roles and partnerships in the development of projects in their communities.

Recognizing that building and supporting full in-house real estate capacity in every neighborhood or at every development organization is not feasible, Neighborhood Allies developed a realistic and deliberate process that centralizes technical assistance and other forms of fundamental real estate capacity that is now being deployed to local organizations. The Shared Real Estate Talent Program positions us to systematically supply critical technical assistance that allows local community organizations and emerging developers to access critical early stage expertise in evaluating a project, including design, budgeting, operating projections and right-sizing the financing package.

“Our experience has confirmed that the local Pittsburgh real estate ecosystem needs to be greatly improved and nurtured to systematically fuel economic development and opportunity, and leverage public and private capital, without displacing vulnerable residents.”

-Presley Gillespie

It is clear that lack of technical capacity and human resources tends to be a bigger obstacle to viable mission-driven real estate projects than lack of debt capital (lack of capital absorption). Because of this, a fundamental building block of the Shared Real Estate Talent program is to institutionalize and centralize technical assistance and other forms of capacity by connecting those organizations to a centralized and vetted ecosystem of trusted real estate partners. This takes the burden off those organizations so that they are able to invest precious time and energy into their core competencies and priorities and avoid the burden of cultivating expertise in tasks that are not and do not need to be core competencies.

Impact of the Shared Real Estate Talent Program

Over 450 consulting hours and 475 staff hours have contributed to projects across Neighborhood Allies’ 6 priority neighborhoods and $2,645,500 in project investments were made in and around Pittsburgh. These investments have leveraged $28 million in additional financing across all shared real estate projects. Thus far, outputs include 68 units of new affordable housing in the form of new units added to existing projects and rehabilitation of previously vacant units. Another 24 distressed units were preserved and rehabilitated, for a total of 92 affordable units financed and assisted through the program. An additional 42,000 square feet of space was revitalized and repositioned in commercial corridors to provide community and event space. In the immediate pipeline, we are assisting neighborhood-based organizations working on an additional 61 affordable rental housing units, 15 affordable homeownership units, 20 cooperatively owned residential units, and 12,500 square feet of neighborhood co-working and business incubation space.

“Real estate projects are very technical by their nature. They are challenging, even for folks that are experienced professionals. I like the fact that we’re able to leverage the collective expertise of our consultant group and Neighborhood Allies to help turn ideas into real projects. Our approach is flexible, so we can help an organization who has never done a real estate project to a seasoned organization that just needs some patient financing to move a project forward.”

-Tom Hardy

Shared Real Estate Talent At Work On The Ground In Millvale

In Millvale, we deployed one of our vetted real estate experts, Tom Hardy, to assist the Millvale Community Development Corporation (MCDC) with restructuring a number of community properties and projects. Tom has been instrumental in negotiating the sale of three former MCDC properties in ways that strengthen their financial, long term stability while also maintaining community control over three properties. The Millvale community is working hard to stay as far ahead as possible to manage growth in their community by securing properties and ensuring that residents are able to shape their own destiny in this time of growth. Some of these real estate victories that the Shared Real Estate Talent Program has been able to guide to closing in Millvale include:

Photo Credit: Louis Raggiunti | Trib Live


  1. Purchase and renovation of the Moose Lodge to become a community food and clean energy hub, and home to New Sun Rising along with other sustainability focused groups, including 5 organizations increasing fresh food access in the region.
  2. Closing on the sale 501 E Ohio Street to Strange Roots Experimental Ales – owned and operated by a descendant of Simon Girty (Millvale’s founding father!). Strange Roots also hires locally. The MCDC was able to use proceeds to pay off contractors who had performed

    Photo Credit: Ton Pottery Facebook Page

    work on a previous project.

  3. Closing on the sale of 220 North Ave to the existing tenant (Ton Pottery) who has operated an arts base hub in the center of the business district. Ton Pottery has proven themselves as both a progressive, inclusive business and programming partner offering free classes to Millvale resident autistic children and their families, providing free programming to youth summer and school year programs in collaboration with the Millvale Community Library, and more.
  4. Selling half of the Grant Avenue Pocket Park to the Borough of Millvale to secure as a long-term park space, meet financial obligations, and assure long-term organizational stability.

“The Shared Real Estate Talent Program and Tom’s support has been instrumental in negotiating the sale of three former MCDC properties in ways that strengthen their financial, long term stability while also maintaining community control over the future of these properties. In reflection of the years behind us, and the path that lay ahead… Millvale is oh so very fortunate to have Neighborhood Allies in our corner!”

-Brian Wolovich

For more information on our Shared Real Estate Talent Program, please contact

Top Header Image Photo Credit: Prototyping Larimer Stories by artist John Peña, photo by OPA