Kelly Cullen Community Celebrates Grand Opening

This unique project partners housing, social work services and a primary care clinic for 172 formerly homeless individuals.

On March 26th, 2013, 500 guests joined us for the grand opening of Kelly Cullen Community. TNDC staff welcomed the crowd to celebrate this century-old landmark, renovated to provide homes for 172 chronically homeless individuals with pervasive medical needs. Named in honor of Kelly Cullen, TNDC’s former Executive Director and influential Tenderloin activist, Kelly Cullen Community exemplifies his spirit by “creating vibrant futures for our residents and this community.” Mayor Ed Lee, Supervisor Jane Kim, TNDC Executive Director Don Falk, Senior Project Manager Mara Blitzer, Former Board Member Radha Stern, and Erin Cullen-Harris, Brother Cullen’s niece, all delivered impassioned remarks. TNDC Executive Director Don Falk thanked all guests for “creating dignified homes for hundreds of formerly homeless people.”

Kelly Cullen Community renovation took a historic building that faced an un-certain future, when the YMCA announced it would sell the property in 2005, and transformed it into safe, affordable housing. One of the unique features is that residents have access to the Tom Waddell Urban Health Clinic, the Tenderloin’s largest Department of Public Health Clinic, located on the ground floor, along with intensive social work services.

“By co-locating health and housing, TNDC has created a national model,” maintains Don Falk. Testimony to his words, Kelly Cullen Community has received a nationally competitive Social Innovation Award from the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH). According to a CSH representative, Kelly Cullen Community is “one of the most ambitious and complex initiatives by anyone in the supportive housing world ever.” It provides integrated services for clients impacted by homelessness, chronic health conditions, and cycles of institutionalization. Angela Alioto, Chair of the San Francisco Ten Year Plan (To End Homelessness) Council and former Board of Supervisors President, agreed. “This project needs to be duplicated in every city in this nation.”

In 2007, TNDC acquired the historic Shih Yu-Lang YMCA building at 220 Golden Gate Avenue. Due to the size, scope, number of collaborators, and historic parameters, financing presented a challenge. Nonetheless, TNDC’s staff, with more than 70 years of collective housing development experience, rose to the occasion and located funds from 13 sources. Through a truly complex 5-year process, TNDC’s rehabilitation restored the nine-story building’s 1909 Italian Renaissance grandeur with a preserved façade, historic auditorium, gymnasium, lobby, atrium, mezzanine, and grand entry staircase. The 230 square feet single residency units include kitchenettes and full bathrooms; 92% are ADA accessible. Common amenities include lounges, communal dining room, laundry facilities, and a rooftop garden.

Ultimately, TNDC’s staff, in collaboration with Gelfand Partner Architects and Knapp Architects, relished the opportunity to complete this ambitious project. They met more than 34 guidelines for historic preservation, and even exceeded those requirements – with significant upgrades to energy efficiency and ADA accessibility in all design aspects.

TNDC Senior Project Manager Mara Blitzer attests to Kelly Cullen Community’s importance: “There’s a lot to be said for how beautiful spaces show respect for the people who inhabit them.” Testament to Mara’s words, the space brought one resident to tears and caused another to share that since the building is lovely and welcoming, unlike her previous home, she is no longer ashamed to bring her family to visit. Sean Williams, a formerly homeless Kelly Cullen Community resident testified, “Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night. It is wonderful, because for the first time, I have a home of my own.” TNDC is proud to preserve Kelly Cullen Community to house formerly homeless people for decades to come.

SF Mayor’s Office of Housing, SF Dept. of Public Health, PNC Bank, California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (ARRA), California Housing Finance Agency (MHSA), Silicon Valley Bank (Federal Home Loan Bank Affordable Housing Program), Citi Community Capital (construction only), US Bank (acquisition/predevelopment only), San Francisco Local Operating Subsidy Program (LOSP), CalHFA – MHSA Housing Program Capitalized Operating Subsidy Reserve, Corporation for Supportive Housing, and DPH (services).

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