Vacant City Facility to Have New Life Serving Oakland Students and Job Seekers
The new Oakland Career Center is just months away from its grand opening in the building many remember as the Oakland Senior Center. OPDC finalized a long-term lease agreement with the City of Pittsburgh and will renovate the long-vacant building for our JobLinks and School 2 Career (S2C) programs to move in by late summer.
Located in the heart of our neighborhood at the corner of Semple and Louisa Streets, the building has sat as an abandoned blight on the community for many years. In reviving the building, OPDC’s mission is multi-faceted:
- Reclaim a vacant building in a prominent Central Oakland location;
- Build a bigger JobLinks office location to better accommodate our clients and our training programs;
- Build a bigger office for School to Career to accommodate increased enrollment;
- Realize organizational efficiencies by co-locating two programs that now occupy three different locations;
- Create an additional community meeting and event space; and
- Beautify Central Oakland with new landscaping and public art.
The building is currently a polling location for many Oakland residents; OPDC will continue to make the space available for polling on election days.
Providing Enhanced Career and Education Opportunities in Oakland
OPDC will relocate both our JobLinks and School 2 Career programs into the new Career Center, providing at-risk youth and unemployed adults with career development training and certification services, skill-building workshops, after-school programming and education, and mentored job shadowing opportunities, preparing youth for college and placing adults on promising career paths.
For JobLinks, the new building’s meeting space people will accommodate job fairs, specialized training workshops for area employers, and for the first time, the ability to offer our Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) classroom trainings on site in a well-outfitted teaching space with modern equipment and floor-to-ceiling natural light. For S2C, the move signifies the first dedicated space to call their own since the program began in 1996 and will be large enough to accommodate recent enrollment increases.
“Because both JobLinks and S2C focus on preparing people for the work world, the proximity of the two programs will allow staff to share different strategies, collaborate on employer relationships and introduce students and job seekers to possible career paths. Plus, with both programs under one roof, we’ll be able to reduce operational costs,” reported Bryan Perry, OPDC Assistant Director for Workforce and Strategy.
All Hands on Deck
Volunteers and partner organizations have played an essential role in preparing the building for construction. Since we started the massive clean-up project in late February, volunteers have cleared out over 60 bags of recycling and 40 bags of garbage from the building.
Construction’s Junction’s deconstruction program partnered with us to ensure all the unwanted items don’t end up in a landfill—they are re-structuring many of the old pieces of furniture and materials for re-sale at their store. In other green news, OPDC’s LEADS (Learning Environmental and Developmental Sustainability) youth greening program participants even used the windows along the Louisa Street side of the building to germinate tomato, pepper, cucumber, coriander, parsley, spinach and kale seedlings, before planting them at the Frazier Fields community garden.
In March, as part of its 1000plus event, Carnegie Mellon University sent 40 student volunteers to the building to wash walls, remove trash and old furniture, and remove and trim overgrown shrubs along the building’s periphery. “The sisters of Kappa Phi Lambda enjoyed organizing and cleaning the building’s classrooms during the 1000plus event, especially knowing what a great cause the classrooms will be used for,” student Lauren Xu told us. “We wish the best of luck to the future students who will be using these classrooms when the building is completed!”
OPDC has contracted with Pittsburgh Contracting Network to complete the major renovation job. The scope of work includes a full rehabilitation of the building’s interior, as well as roof repairs, window replacements, and installation of new HVAC systems. We intend to re-do all landscaping at the corner to restore it as a beautiful space for passers-by in this central location of Oakland. And, if funding comes through, Bryan Perry reports, “We hope to make the new roof a green roof,” adding with a smile that this is on the “wish-list.”
OPDC thanks those partners who have already made significant financial contributions to the project:
Best Buy Foundation
Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development
Richard King Mellon Foundation
Taco Bell Foundation