By Lee Blons | Matt Crellin, Beacon’s director of housing development, has announced he’s “easing into retirement.”
I am so grateful for Matt’s quiet leadership that has guided Beacon to our extraordinary success in creating high-quality housing in the community.
When Margee Bracken and I interviewed Matt back in 2004, we were so excited to find someone with Matt’s experience interested in our fledging organization. Matt had been head administrator for design and construction at SuperAmerica and then led housing development for Accessible Space, a national non-profit creating homes for people with disabilities. While he loved the work, he’d grown tired of the travel, especially with two high-school age sons at home.
Now Matt’s sons have completed college, and he and Joan are empty nesters. This fall as he celebrates his 63rd birthday, he will step down from his senior leadership position and become a part-time project manager here.
Matt was my first hire. Over the 10 years we’ve worked together, I feel like our strengths have complemented each other. As executive director, I’m the one cutting the ribbon and making speeches and so much credit goes to the work of Matt and his team. Under Matt’s tenure, Beacon has developed 13 of our 15 developments.
People may assume that because I express strong opinions at times, I make the decisions at Beacon. The reality is that behind Matt’s mellow exterior is an astute strategist with a wealth of complex knowledge – and I have often looked to Matt on key decisions. Matt knows how to put a whole affordable housing package together - not just the technical expertise but also understanding the community support and political dynamics.
A few examples: One of our first projects was Creekside Commons. We had to decide on how large it should be and I looked to Matt, who advised that it would be a better housing development if it were a little smaller, so that’s what we did.
Later Matt learned that The Wilder Foundation intended to transfer its affordable housing to other non-profits. He felt we should put our name in the running. I thought that we wouldn’t have a chance because Wilder was “so St Paul” and we were a “Minneapolis” organization. But it turned out that the staff was so impressed by Lydia Apartments that they chose Beacon to take on Kimball Court and American House (almost 150 units). Now, that connection has deepened our Saint Paul presence, as we collaborate with Wilder as the service provider at Prior Crossing in Saint Paul.
Matt has also been willing to adapt traditional housing development to our unique congregational collaborative model, helping congregation members understand housing development and make informed choices. He’s always maintained key relationships with our public funders, architects, contractors and bankers.
As Matt prepares to move on from Beacon, it will be a transition for us too. I know that there will be many times that I will ask myself, “What would Matt do?”
Matt Crellin is pictured above, third from left, with Frerichs employees at the Beacon office.