A Brownsville health center revitalized for the 21st century Brownsville Multi-Service Family Health Center

In 1982, the Brownsville Community Development Corporation established the Brownsville Multi-Service Family Health Center (BMS) in order to provide affordable healthcare to local residents. When the economic decline of the late 2000s spurred a wave of hospital closings in the area, BMS resolved to enhance and expand operations and tapped Denham Wolf’s expertise.

Denham Wolf’s engagement with BMS began with the team leading an intensive strategic planning process to determine the physical, organizational, and financial feasibility of the intended renovation and expansion project, first in regards to the organization’s main facility and later at their dental facility. Through this process, it became clear that establishing a consistent and sufficient stream of funding was a critical concern; we subsequently guided the development, implementation, and ongoing maintenance of a phased project financing plan that optimized the use of funds.

Our role in this plan included supporting BMS in meeting the often complex requirements of its funding sources, which included Primary Care Development Corporation (PCDC) loans, federal HRSA allocations, and various New York State funds. Denham Wolf’s experience in identifying, securing, and overseeing various aspects of project financing proved particularly helpful in the extensive regulation involved in the project, due to BMS’s status as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC).

Carefully phasing the project’s construction proved to be essential operationally as well as financially. Because of the vital medical services that BMS provides and its singular position in the community, it was a top priority that the 21,000 square foot facility remain open to patients throughout the course of the project. To achieve this end, Denham Wolf created and managed a very specifically phased construction plan that balanced project progress with BMS’s commitment to unwaveringly serving the economically disadvantaged and medically underserved neighborhoods of eastern Brooklyn.

The primary physical goals of the renovation were the spatial reorganization of both clinical and support spaces, the expansion of the facility’s administrative suite, the renovation of the building exterior, and the renovation of the lobby. In reaching these goals, a decision was made to eliminate a former conference room to allow for greater expansion of clinical space. Without this conference room, the staff serendipitously claimed the lobby as a meeting space, even using it for holding all-staff meetings. The communal nature of the lobby also resonated with neighbors, and it has since become recognized as a great space for both staff and community meetings.


“BMS was always well-known within the community, but the renovated building is further raising their profile. On the day that we opened up the new lobby, folks just started walking in. One visitor commented that he was there simply to take a look around, and that it was amazing what had been done.”

—Jonathan Denham, Co-President at Denham Wolf

The renovation and expansion of the Brownsville Multi-Service Family Health Center has had a profoundly positive impact for the organization and the larger community. The project has allowed BMS to continue providing high quality, affordable, and patient-centered care and has built the organization’s capacity to scale its services. The facility’s expansion has also spurred economic growth for the area by providing new nursing, security, and custodial jobs. In other words, the project’s benefits extend beyond the most basic aspects of human health to include community connectivity, social resilience, and economic fortitude.

Brownsville Multi-Service Family Health Center
Brownsville Multi-Service Family Health Center
Renovation of BMS Main Facility
Brownsville, Brooklyn
Gertler & Wente Architects