Photograph of the two street façades of an nine-story masonry building with classical details. Rendered cross-section of the nine-story building showing the lobby one story above the street entrance; above the lobby are a domed skylight and five residential floors. Behind the lobby is the auditorium with a three-story gym and two residential floors. Below the lobby and auditorium is the health clinic. Photograph taken from the balcony showing the proscenium stage and wood floor of the auditorium. Photograph of the top of the grand staircase with the lobby in the background. Photograph taken within the lobby across the top of the grand staircase toward large windows in the background. Photograph taken from the elevated track showing the basketball court below and a walkway above. Computer-generated representations of pipes and duct work superimposed on a photograph of the front and side façades of Kelly Cullen Community. Photograph of tables, benches, and planters in a courtyard with the walls of the ninth floor rooms in the background. Photograph of the interior of a studio showing the dining area and kitchenette.

 

Home >Case Studies >San Francisco, California: Transforming an Historic YMCA into Supportive Housing and a Health Clinic for the Homeless

 

San Francisco, California: Transforming an Historic YMCA into Supportive Housing and a Health Clinic for the Homeless

 

The former Central YMCA in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood is an architecturally celebrated structure and a beloved community asset. The building underwent a transformative renovation that preserved its long civic tradition while also providing permanent housing and holistic supportive services for the city’s homeless.

Constructed shortly after San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake, the nine-story building, built in the classical style with renaissance ornamentation, helped earn the Uptown Tenderloin Historic District a listing in the National Register of Historic Places. After the YMCA moved out of the building because of the cost of required seismic upgrades, the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC), a nonprofit affordable housing developer that owns 32 buildings in the city, purchased the building in 2007. A 5-year renovation resulted in Kelly Cullen Community, featuring 174 studio units as well as commercial space and an 11,700-square-foot federally qualified health clinic on the first floor. The renovation also restored the structure’s most architecturally significant features: its gym, auditorium, atrium lobby, meeting spaces, and grand staircase.

 

Upholding Dignity

TNDC converted the YMCA’s former hotel rooms into 172 permanent supportive housing units for the homeless and 2 apartments for staff. Each unit is approximately 230 square feet, retains the original structure’s window bays and high ceilings, and includes space for storage, kitchenettes, and bathrooms. Although the renovation increased the size of the housing units, Kelly Cullen was able to add more housing units to the building by replacing the two-story handball courts and boys’ gym with two floors of apartments.

The residential component of the renovation presented several challenges, according to Chris Duncan, a principal at Gelfand Partners Architects. Duncan notes that supplying 174 residential units with modern water, electrical, heating, and ventilation systems, with all pipes and ducts concealed within floors and walls to comply with historic preservation requirements, was an especially “complex physical puzzle” that required constant collaboration among the developer, architects, and general contractor. In addition, energy efficiency and accessibility had their own needs for space, and required seismic upgrades had to be provided within aesthetic and cost constraints. The outcome of this complex renovation is housing for the formerly homeless in an elegant and dignified context. The dignity of the residential space is complemented by the restoration of the building’s many common spaces.

Preserving the Past

Kelly Cullen Community retains the building’s longstanding social purpose and community role. The developer restored many original building features with few changes, including the three-story men’s gym and the auditorium. In the basement, the developer also preserved the original swimming pool, giving special attention to deck, wall, and column tiles and providing a removable floor plate so the space could be used as a meeting room.

TNDC devoted considerable attention to restoring the architectural centerpiece of the building — the two-story, skylit lobby — as well as reconstructing the grand staircase that was lost during remodeling in the 1950s. The developer reconstructed the staircase in meticulous detail using compatible building materials, including terrazzo stairs, tile walls, wood ceilings, and translucent planters. Kelly Cullen Community also includes new common spaces: a kitchen, laundry room, and landscaped roof, which Duncan notes was designed to create “a little oasis for residents.”

The renovations included environmental features such as hydronic radiant panel heating, humidistat-controlled bathroom ventilation fans, energy-efficient light fixtures, and sustainable materials such as products containing little or no volatile organic compounds. According to Duncan, the goal was to develop systems that would use the least amount of energy and take advantage of the building’s ample natural light. In addition, 92 percent of the units meet the accessibility standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Linking Housing and Health

One of Kelly Cullen Community’s new distinguishing features is the Tom Waddell Urban Health Clinic, a space that has received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Commercial Interiors Gold certification. As part of the project’s holistic approach to serving the homeless, the San Francisco Department of Public Health provides medical, psychological, and social services for Kelly Cullen tenants and an anticipated 25,000 patients per year from the wider community.

Residents also have access to intensive services from an onsite multiagency team of social workers and nurses as well as money managers who coordinate tenants’ rental payments. This integration of medical, mental health, and substance-abuse services addresses tenants’ needs holistically and helps achieve one of the project’s goals: reducing high-cost hospitalizations for homeless individuals. Fifty of Kelly Cullen’s tenants were selected for permanent housing specifically because they were among the highest cost users enrolled in the San Francisco Health Plan, which provides health care coverage for low- and moderate-income individuals. New York University researchers are conducting an evaluation to assess how this integrated approach affects residents’ use of high-cost health services. CSH is supporting this research through a Social Innovation Fund award from the Corporation for National and Community Service as part of a national evaluation of four communities implementing similar housing and supportive services programs. In addition, CSH is providing supportive services funding for residents of Kelly Cullen and initially awarded TNDC a two-year grant of $850,000 with the option for renewed annual funding of three additional years based on performance and availability of funding.

Financing

Total development costs were approximately $91 million (table 1). Federal funds made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) were essential to completing the building because an investor for the affordable housing tax credits was never identified. Despite the challenges related to the project’s scale, complexity, and financing, TNDC executive director Don Falk credits the many stakeholders who believed in Kelly Cullen Community with ensuring its success: “We experienced so many problems [and] so many difficulties in getting Kelly Cullen Community developed. We could not have succeeded if it weren’t something the San Francisco community wanted to see happen.”

 

Table 1: Financing for Kelly Cullen Community

San Francisco Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development

$20,000,000

ARRA funds in lieu of low-income housing tax credit equity

$24,000,000

ARRA funds in lieu of California Department of Housing and Community Development Multifamily Housing Program

$10,000,000

ARRA funds in lieu of California Transit Oriented Development Housing Program

$17,000,000

PNC Bank — historic tax credit equity

$16,200,000

California Housing Finance Agency — Mental Health Services Act Housing Program

$1,700,000

Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco — Affordable Housing Program

$1,500,000

Total

$90,400,000

 

Restoring a Community Asset

In addition to winning the 2013 National Preservation Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for the building’s restoration, Kelly Cullen Community received the 2014 American Institute of Architects/HUD Secretary’s Award in the Creating Community Connection category because of the way it incorporates affordable housing with community amenities. The auditorium, gym, and multipurpose room, which are all available for use by the wider community, hosted 35 free events by local nonprofits and community organizations in 2013. The auditorium and multipurpose room are the most-used rooms, and TNDC continues to evaluate how to make the best use of the gym for members of the community. Opening the building in this way, Kelly Cullen Community preserves a beloved neighborhood asset while also providing opportunities for the community’s most vulnerable residents through coordinated housing and health services.

Source:

Gelfland Partners Architects. n.d. “National Preservation Honor Awards Entry Materials.” Accessed 10 March 2015; U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. 2008. “National Register of Historic Places: Uptown Tenderloin Historic District,” 55. Accessed 10 March 2015; Interview with Don Falk, executive director of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, and Elizabeth Orlin, chief operating officer of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, 1 March 2015; American Institute of Architects. 2015. “2014 Recipient: AIA/HUD Secretary’s Awards: Kelly Cullen Community.” Accessed 10 March 2015.

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Source:

Interview with Don Falk, executive director of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, and Elizabeth Orlin, chief operating officer of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, 1 March 2015; Documents provided by the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation; Gelfland Partners Architects. n.d. “National Preservation Honor Awards Entry Materials.” Accessed 10 March 2015; American Institute of Architects. 2015. “2014 Recipient: AIA/HUD Secretary’s Awards: Kelly Cullen Community.” Accessed 10 March 2015.

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Source:

Interview with Chris Duncan, 2 March 2015.

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Source:

San Francisco Architectural Heritage. 2012. “Kelly Cullen Community Restores Hope in the Tenderloin,” Heritage News 40:3, 7; Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation. 2015. “Property Listing: Kelly Cullen Community — 220 Golden Gate.” Accessed 10 March 2015; Gelfland Partners Architects. n.d. “National Preservation Honor Awards Entry Materials.” Accessed 10 March 2015.

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Source:

Interview with Chris Duncan, 2 March 2015; American Institute of Architects. 2015. “2014 Recipient: AIA/HUD Secretary’s Awards: Kelly Cullen Community.” Accessed 10 March 2015; Documents provided by the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation.

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Source:

Gelfland Partners Architects. n.d. “National Preservation Honor Awards Entry Materials.” Accessed 10 March 2015; Interview with Chris Duncan, 2 March 2015; Correspondence with Don Falk, executive director of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, 10 March 2015.

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Source:

U.S. Green Building Council. n.d. “Tom Waddell Urban Health Clinic.” Accessed 10 March 2015; San Francisco Department of Public Health. n.d. “Our Services: Homeless Services.” Accessed 10 March 2015; Gelfland Partners Architects. n.d. “National Preservation Honor Awards Entry Materials.” Accessed 10 March 2015; Interview with Don Falk, executive director of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, and Elizabeth Orlin, chief operating officer of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, 1 March 2015; Katie Lamont. 2014. “Tough Cases: Financially Viable Housing Models for the Hard to Serve,” presentation at 2014 Solutions Conference, National Housing Conference. Accessed 10 March 2015; Correspondence with Elizabeth Orlin, chief operating officer of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, 10 March 2015.

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Source:

Interview with Chris Duncan, 2 March 2015; Interview with Don Falk, executive director of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, and Elizabeth Orlin, chief operating officer of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, 1 March 2015; Katie Lamont. 2014. “Central YMCA to Kelly Cullen Community,” Preservation Financing: Funding Projects webinar, California Preservation Foundation, 4 March. Accessed 10 March 2015.

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Source:

National Trust for Historic Preservation. 2013. “Kelly Cullen Community to Receive Preservation Honor Award,” press release, 25 October. Accessed 10 March 2015; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. n.d. “Housing and Community Design Awards, 2014: Creating Community Connections — Kelly Cullen Community: San Francisco, CA.” Accessed 10 March 2015; Interview with Don Falk, executive director of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, and Elizabeth Orlin, chief operating officer of the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, 1 March 2015; Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation. 2014. “Annual Report.” Accessed 10 March 2015.

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Source:

Interview with Lucy Kerman, 30 January 2015.

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Source:

John A. Fry. 2010. “2010 Convocation,” (5 October). Accessed 13 January 2015; Interview with Lucy Kerman, 30 January 2015.

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