Client story

YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh’s new HQ a bright spot in its 150-year history

JLL supports YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh with a transformational HQ, promoting collaboration and equity


Pittsburgh, PA


Headquarters transformation


Nonprofits & foundations

For more than 150 years, YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh has been at the forefront of empowering women and eliminating racism, operating with a mission that has evolved to meet the changing needs of the community. As times have changed, so have the challenges faced by the organization.

The former downtown headquarters at 305 Wood Street, although once fitting, became inefficient for the organization’s operations due to high operational costs from underutilization, an inhibitive layout that discouraged communication, and an aging infrastructure. YWCA Greater Pittsburgh CEO Angela Reynolds, Ph.D, explains that the way the team operated within its mission had shifted.

“The building we had was not conducive to the current workforce we have or the types of collaboration we needed,” Reynolds said. “The space didn’t allow off-the-cuff conversations; we needed natural interactions built in.”

“It was built for a different time, serving a different purpose,” says Anne Herman, President of YWCA Greater Pittsburgh’s Board of Directors.

YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh sought a new headquarters: a space that would address the challenges of its former location while still maintaining the importance of a physical presence and paying homage to its storied history. Above all, they wanted a space that would embody their mission by removing barriers to opportunity and meeting people where they are.

Aligning expectations

YWCA owned the building at 305 Wood Street for nearly 60 years when it engaged JLL to list the building for sale and, ultimately, lead site selection and lease negotiation efforts for a new headquarters location.

JLL’s Capital Markets team was engaged to evaluate the downtown headquarters location and position it in the market for sale for highest and best use. In April 2022, the team successfully sold the building for $4 million to City Club Apartments.

In parallel to selling the building, JLL’s Tenant Representation team was also tasked with finding the ideal site for YWCA’s new headquarters.

“Despite some functions going digital—things like paperwork, or virtual environments—we still felt strongly that we needed a physical space not only for our team but for the families we support,” said Reynolds.

Initial conversations with their team and JLL covered what was and wasn’t negotiable in their new headquarters. The organization needed a space that promoted natural interactions, brought everyone together in a more conducive layout, and allowed for collaborative opportunities. Natural light, accessibility and parking, and walkability to nearby amenities were also taken into consideration.

“Having these conversations with us upfront about where we want to be, the types of features or amenities we’re looking for, forced us to identify what truly were the non-negotiables,” Reynolds continues. “We really enjoyed this part of the process.”

Identifying these needs early on also further defined what properties could be taken out of the equation, allowing YWCA to focus on the buildings that fit its parameters and aligned with its focus on employee equity.

“Equity is at the heart of everything we do within our organization and for our families,” said Reynolds. “Our staff would feel isolated [in the old space] since they couldn’t physically see other team members or feel those connections every day.”

In May 2022, JLL’s Tenant Representation team negotiated a tenant-favorable deal in Pittsburgh’s South Side neighborhood at Birmingham Place.

Prioritizing employee equity

The move to Birmingham Place brought about significant transformations to YWCA's operations and community support, aligning more closely with their mission while reducing operating expenses by nearly two-thirds.

In the new headquarters, YWCA fosters unity and collaboration, encouraging no silos between team members, ensuring a sense of unity. The inclusive design features gender-neutral spaces, including a family room tailored for the diverse teams and communities they serve.

The well-being of its employees was also carefully considered in the design of the space. YWCA incorporated lounge areas and private phone booth-style rooms, lactation rooms, and wellness rooms, recognizing the need for individuals to take a moment to decompress in the face of the challenging issues they tackle every day.

“Prioritizing employee equity isn’t just a good moral imperative but a strategic business decision,” said Geoff Greco, Senior Vice President at JLL. “This was a key principle that drove YWCA’s headquarters relocation. Ultimately, this translates to better retention, stronger teamwork and operational performance for organizations.”

The brightness of the space, both in terms of light and purposeful design choices, has left a lasting impression on visitors and employees alike.

During the transition, YWCA faced the unique challenge of leaving behind its former headquarters—one that held special sentiment for the organization and its team, as it was built by women dedicated to its mission over the last 60 years.

“We couldn’t solely hold onto it for sentimental reasons, we knew. But we made a conscious effort to honor the legacy of their past and what they did at that building,” said Herman.

In its new headquarters, YWCA acknowledges the accomplishments and memories made in its former space. Herman describes it as a perfect balance of merging the old with the new and forward-looking.

“Overall, [the new headquarters] has presented tangible benefits in terms of functionality and employee well-being, but it has also allowed us to redirect resources toward continuing to support our partner families and mission,” says Reynolds. “It’s been a win-win.”