Media Mentions

Nonprofit Common Ground changes its name to Breaking Ground

Read the article as published on Crain's New York.

Builder of supportive housing breaks ground on two Bronx projects

Just before it begins several large-scale development projects in the Bronx, supportive housing nonprofit Common Ground is changing its name, fittingly, to Breaking Ground.

After 25 years, the organization decided its old moniker no longer fit its vision for developing housing for the homeless and low-income New Yorkers. The nonprofit has two distinct operations: It is a developer and manager of housing for homeless and low-income individuals, and it employs an outreach team to work with the street homeless. It does the latter work in Brooklyn, Queens and parts of Manhattan through a contract with the city Department of Homeless Services.

On the development side, Breaking Ground has built about 3,200 units of housing, some in historic Manhattan buildings such as the Prince George and the Christopher. Its facilities house the chronically homeless, low-income working adults, individuals suffering from mental illness and addition, people with HIV/AIDS, veterans, seniors, artists and young people aging out of foster care.

Now the nonprofit wants to add to its portfolio stand-alone affordable housing for working individuals and their families, said Brenda Rosen, president and chief executive of Breaking Ground.

"We're looking to become one of the most active nonprofit developers in affordable housing," she said.

In the Bronx, the developer is scheduled to open a $47 million, 154-unit building on Boston Road in the Morrisania neighborhood this fall. It's one of the first buildings to open that was developed with funding from the state's Medicaid Redesign Team's Supportive Housing Workgroup, which gave $6.9 million in financing.

Next year, it will start construction on two buildings with about 400 units in the Tremont section of the Bronx. The purchase of that site was financed through the Low Income Investment Fund and the city's Acquisition Loan Fund, supplemented by $5.7 million in MRT funding. Cookfox Architects is designing the project, and Mountco Constuction and Development is a general contractor and an equity partner in one building.

Before Breaking Ground moved forward with those ambitious plans, it wanted to remake its image.

"Since we're about to have a burst of development that is bigger than we've ever had in history in such a short amount of time, we thought there's no better time to launch our new name and tagline," Rosen said.

The new name is meant to evoke multiple messages, including breaking ground on new real estate projects and breaking the cycles of poverty and homelessness, she said.

The nonprofit worked with Manhattan brand consultant Siegelvision to reinvent its name, logo and tagline, which will now be "Building and Restoring Lives."

"We wanted a name that reflects the history of restoring structures and building as well to reflect what we do to help people restore their lives and become successful once again," she said.

The rebranding was funded through contributions from Robin Hood and the Booth Ferris Foundation. Rosen declined to specify how much the effort cost, but she said the outside funding was critical, as the nonprofit has just "a few thousand dollars" to spend on marketing annually.

The new name is an improvement over Common Ground, said Margaret Wolfson, founder of Manhattan branding agency River + Wolf, which didn't work on the campaign.

"Common Ground speaks more to mutual concerns and interests, whereas Breaking Ground suggests energy, drive and determination. It also conveys a pioneer spirit," she said.