This story was originally published on page 1 of BGC’s The Bulletin.
Lincoln-Lemington – A senior housing facility called “The Lemington” will soon open its doors in a long-vacant building at 1625 Lincoln Ave. The mixed-use development looks to provide 54 units of affordable senior housing; the East Liberty Family Health Care Center will move into the first floor, consolidating administrative functions from several branches and adding additional clinical, dental, and pharmacy spaces to its existing services.
The local arm of a Boston, Mass.-based developer, Beacon Communities, undertook a total rehab of the property which, despite sitting empty and unused for 13 years, still conveyed a rich history. For many years, the building served as a senior housing development, “Lemington Home for the Aged,” with a story that reaches back more than a century.
“A woman by the name of Mary Peck Bond was right at the heart of it,” said Michael Polite, executive vice president/partner of Beacon Communities. “Everything has an origin, and Mary’s response to [help] someone was the origin of the Lemington Home for the Aged.”
In 1877, Bond discovered that a friend of hers, a woman who was a former slave and over 100 years old, was living alone in a basement. Bond worked quickly to find an apartment for her friend. Eventually, this one act of service would inspire Bond and her friends to form a faith-based association to aid older women in their community. They raised enough money to purchase a home in the Hill District, designed to care for aging women, that later expanded into operating a home on Lemington Avenue.
“Over time, they acquired land and raised the financing necessary to build a nursing home,” Polite explained. The 192-unit building, known as “Lemington Home for the Aged,” operated as a nursing home from 1980 until the early 2000s.
The old facility was thought to be the oldest continuously operated home for the aged in the country, according to the African American Registry. When Polite came across the vacant building in 2017, he saw an opportunity to keep the story going.
“I envisioned taking the rooms on the upper floors and converting them into one-bedroom, senior apartments, primarily for folks who have accessibility challenges,” he said. “Next to the building, there’s already an independent-living building called ‘Eva P. Mitchell Senior Apartments.’ So, in my mind, this was always meant to be a campus with apartment opportunities that respond to people at different levels.”
With help from the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, Polite’s firm was able to realize its vision for The [new] Lemington. They received 54 project-based rent vouchers for the development; each voucher mandates that a unit’s rent be capped at 30% of the tenant income.
On the first floor, residents will enjoy a 1,500 square-foot community space. Each floor of the building will have two furnished day rooms, and a laundry room so that tenants need not travel far. The second floor is equipped with a fitness room.
Beacon Communities will be onsite, connecting residents to services in the community to help them keep independently thriving.
“At Beacon Communities, we have a knowledge base and availability to capital, and we bring those resources to bear in responding to community needs,” Polite explained. “In this case, we acquired an existing asset that was under-used and left to deteriorate, and are now breathing new life into it.”
As for the name: “We thought a lot about it and ultimately decided to abbreviate the Lemington Home for the Aged to ‘The Lemington,’ because that name means something. It represents over 100-and some-odd years of just incredible work. We want to pay homage to that.”
Encouraging potential residents to apply via the Housing Authority (HACP.org), Beacon Communities will soon be hosting tours of the property.