ELDI is made up of a diverse group of people dedicated to creating the best East Liberty possible. One of those people is Shivam Mathur. As East Liberty’s real estate development project manager, he manages our diverse real estate portfolio, from pre-development stage to the handing over of the project. He is responsible for project coordination, liaising with various government agencies, preparing scopes of work for contractors, and facilitating meetings with stakeholders, among other things.
In our Q&A below, Shivam shares his path—all the way from India to finding his passion for community development at Carnegie Mellon University—plus an inside look at what it’s like to work at ELDI.
To start, can you tell us a little about your background and where you’re from?
I was born in Delhi, India and spent the first eighteen years of my life in the capital. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, so I traveled a thousand mile down south to Vellore for my undergraduate degree in civil engineering. Since my mom is an architect, I always had a fascination for the construction industry. It was during my undergraduate degree that I got to know about the opportunities in the United States, and I started building my resume to apply for a graduate program here. Finally, in 2015, I applied for a Master of Science degree at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and got accepted. Since then, Pittsburgh has been my second home.
What made you want to work in community development?
During my time at CMU, I took a course called “Real Estate Design and Development” taught by Professor Valentina Vavasis. As part of the course, students had to work on one or two real life community development projects which were generally led by a non-profit organization. As part of the coursework, I got to interact with a lot of people who are diligently working in this sector and my fascination with community development began. To learn more about this industry, I started taking up as many courses as I could. I had to wait some time before I finally landed a job at Hill Community Development Corporation and Amani Christian Community Development which was a shared position. After working there for a year and half, I moved to ELDI and have been working here as a real estate project manager since then.
As a real estate project manager at ELDI, what does your day-to-day look like?
A normal day at work is mostly me visiting construction sites to keep tabs on the project, coordinating with our construction manager, Donald McCartan, and my supervisor, Jonathan Huck, taking notes, emailing all the responsible parties and simply keeping the project moving forward.
What are you working on at the moment and how does it fit within ELDI’s larger mission to realize the community’s vision of a vibrant, mixed-income community?
I am currently working on a few rehabs, which, once completed, will be sold to an 80% or less Area Median Income buyer. Besides this, I am also involved in creating a strategy to bring mixed-income homeownership opportunities to the East End neighborhoods. ELDI has worked really hard to revitalize the East Liberty neighborhood and now we would like to use our strong edge to help other neighborhoods realize the community’s vision of a vibrant, mixed-income community. It is very important to have a blended community of both market rate and affordable housing in a neighborhood, as they complement each other. Market-rate housing can help increase the values of existing homeowners who can realize their equity, and affordable housing can help with diversity by bringing in residents of all income levels.
What is the most challenging part of the job?
Managing expectations. Despite all your best efforts, sometimes things don’t work out exactly as you plan—a closing gets delayed or funding doesn’t come. It is very easy to get flustered however the best thing to do is to pick yourself up and give it another shot, and just keep trying until you finally cross the finish line.
What is the most rewarding part of this work?
Since I work mostly in the housing industry, there is nothing more rewarding than handing over the key to a first-time home buyer and knowing that you played a very tiny part in putting a smile on their face.
What do you wish more people understood about community development?
That the people in this industry work maximum hours with minimal resources to bring a positive change to the community. Also, that community development is as much methodical as it is random. While it is important to learn from other’s work, it is a lot more important to know the strength and weaknesses of the community.
What is it like to work at ELDI?
Working at ELDI has been a blast! I still can’t believe I’ll be completing 2 years here in March! We call ELDI the test lab where everyone can bring new ideas to the table and the team can collectively brainstorm on them. We work hard here and definitely party harder. Every now and then after working hours, Scott (our director of finance and administration) takes up the bartending role and Ted (director of operations) brings in snacks for the team to wind down. My job is to just show up, which I do with full commitment!