The historic Pennsylvania Railroad Fruit & Auction Sales Building will become the new home of The Richard King Mellon Foundation. Photo by Ed Massery.

Two years ago, the once very private Richard King Mellon Foundation rolled out a strategic plan that emphasized more transparency and communication with the public.

Now the city’s largest philanthropy wants to be even more accessible to its stakeholders. 

The foundation today disclosed plans to move from its longtime headquarters on the 41st floor of a Downtown skyscraper to a historic spot in the Strip District where it will convene large group meetings with community members and its grantees in order to get feedback and input about the projects and initiatives it funds. 

Its new home will be on the second floor of the Produce Terminal Auction House at 21st and Smallman streets. 

It plans to move into the 18,000-square-foot space in the fourth quarter of this year. 

The foundation currently occupies 10,000 square feet in the BNY Mellon Center on Grant Street where its lease expires in 2024. 

The Richard King Mellon Foundation is moving into the second floor of the Produce Terminal Auction House at 21st and Smallman streets in the Strip District. Photo by Ed Massery.

It has committed to a 15-year lease at the Auction House, a 1929 structure that for decades was the region’s wholesale produce market and is part of a complex being converted to a mixed-use center of retail shops, restaurants and offices. 

The foundation wanted a location that “allows us to be a bit more connected to the community,” says Sam Reiman, director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation. “The Strip District feels like a natural extension of Downtown,” he says. 

The foundation looked for space that could accommodate its 10-person staff, future employee growth, and as many as 80 people who may attend sessions to discuss and brainstorm about the topics in which it invests, such as education and economic mobility. 

With assets of $3.4 billion at the end of 2021, the foundation provided $152 million in grants in 2021 to nonprofits and initiatives that promote, among other things, economic development, Covid recovery measures, and health and well-being. 

Many convening sessions to date have been held at the Roundhouse at Hazelwood Green, a former steelmaking site along the Monongahela River of which the foundation is a part owner. Organizing meetings off-site “is a heavy lift … and limits our ability to convene,” says Reiman. “It adds a layer of complexity that we can bring back in-house.”

Design firm GBBN is the architect for the new Richard King Mellon Foundation offices. Photo by Ed Massery.

Because a primary focus of the foundation’s grants is conservation, environmental concerns were high on its criteria when it looked for new office space, says Reiman. 

The Auction House, owned and renovated by Chicago-based developer McCaffery, is a LEED Silver certified property, meaning sustainable, “green” practices and materials were used in its construction, including water and energy efficiency and indoor air quality. 

Design firm GBBN is the architect for the new offices. 

Reiman hopes the space — with lots of light and open and collaborative work areas — will invoke the spirit of Richard King Mellon, a former president and chairman of Mellon Bank who launched the foundation in 1947. 

When the storied bank was headquartered on Smithfield Street in Downtown Pittsburgh, Mellon had a desk in an open area at street level where business owners and other customers could meet with him. 

“That fed into our idea of street level visibility … that reduces barriers,” says Reiman. 

Though the foundation’s new offices in the Strip will occupy the second floor of the Auction House, it will share a street-level lobby and a parking lot with other tenants.

Screenshot of the new Richard King Mellon Foundation website.

Also today, the foundation unveiled a new website designed to be more interactive for users. It also has a new logo incorporating bright green rectangles from the former Mellon Bank logo.

A tagline, “Visionaries Wanted,” will sometimes be used in its communication materials. 

“Vision has been at the center of the foundation’s work for 75 years,” says Reiman.

Joyce GannonContributor

Joyce Gannon is a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer.