Architecture & Interior Design

Second Avenue Commons

Second Avenue Commons, provides sanctuary, support, and resources for people experiencing homelessness in downtown Pittsburgh. The facility enables individuals greater self-sufficiency on their path to a safe and secure quality of life. The design is the result of an unprecedented collaboration among stakeholders representing more than a dozen entities including local healthcare, government, public safety, social services, NGO, and professional services (design & construction) organizations.

Project Team

Project Cares Pittsburgh Nonprofit
Owner's Representative
Pittsburgh Mercy
PJ Dick
Teaming Partners
McKim & Creed
KAG Engineering
Ceeva, Inc.
J. Frank Studios
The Gateway Engineers
Interior Design
Construction Administration
Completion Date
October 2022
Project Size
42,000 SF
Project Cost
$22 Million

The goal of this project, initially called Project Cares in the planning stage, was to establish consensus from a broad spectrum of stakeholders for a year-round, “low barrier” shelter with wrap-around services to address the myriad and complex issues confronting people experiencing homelessness. The space needs to enable greater self-sufficiency on an individual’s path to a safe and secure quality of life while ultimately reducing chronic homelessness in Pittsburgh.   

DLA+ facilitated an intensive design process using a “workshop” format to coordinate the input of stakeholders with consensus around a vision for a successful project. Among the drivers of design and the delivery of services are dignity, personal control, security and privacy, harm reduction, flexibility, trauma-informed care and design and flexibility. The shelter's functions and services include the following key components:

  • Intake: customary coordinated entry functions to accept clients.
  • Client Services: including Case Management to assess the needs and navigate to appropriate resources, and Supportive Services as a small clinic for health and mental health consultation.
  • Drop-in Center: offering personally hygiene and client services to individuals experiencing homelessness but who are not staying at the facility.
  • Congregate Sleeping & Hygiene Center: 92 beds in group sleeping rooms with appropriate personal hygiene facilities, with space for an additional 33 beds in the winter.
  • Community Space and Amenities: commons area including lounges, a library and computer room, lounges, kitchen, dining and outdoor space.
  • SRO’s:  42 single room occupancy units to facilitate transition to independent housing.

These accommodations resulted in a five-story facility of 42,000 gross square feet assembled on the Second Avenue site in Downtown Pittsburgh.

The project was the culmination of three years of planning, design, and construction and is the epitome of what a public-private partnership should be. Thanks to the support from city and county leadership, Action-Housing, Inc., Allegheny Conference on Community Development, PNC, UPMC, Allegheny Health Network, Highmark Health, Hillman Family Foundation, Pittsburgh Mercy, Operation Safety Net, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, and PJ Dick, this much-needed and long-hoped-for facility will serve the Pittsburgh community for years to come.

Second Avenue Commons has been named 2023 Building Project of the Year by the March of Dimes Pittsburgh in the 2023 Transportation, Building, and Construction Awards.

For more detail on what into the planning, design and construction of this public-private partnership, read the Viewpoints article: https://www.dlaplus.com/pages/introducing-second-avenue-commons

*Interior photos copyright Denmarsh Photography Inc. / DLA+ Architecture & Interior Design; Exterior photo copyright DLA+ Architecture & Interior Design