City of Asylum Announces New Home: CITY OF ASYLUM @ ALPHABET CITY on Pittsburgh’s Historic Northside

PITTSBURGH, PA — Since 2004, City of Asylum has provided sanctuary for exiled writers endangered in their native lands.  In a row of Northside homes, whose facades are covered with texts in many languages, City of Asylum provides the writers with stipends and the support to become self-sustaining and engaged members of the community.

Building on that mission, City of Asylum has grown into a dynamic arts organization that has showcased over 300 writers, artists and musicians from 63 different countries. In 2015 it presented over 50 programs to diverse audiences of over 5,000 people. City of Asylum’s hallmark is accessibility and diversity, and all performances were free to the public.

Today, City of Asylum announces its move into a permanent new home, City of Asylum @ Alphabet City, formerly the site of the historic Masonic Building, located on the Garden Theater block of Pittsburgh’s Northside.   The $12.5 million project is the culmination of eight years of work and determination on the part of City of Asylum co- founders Henry Reese and Diane Samuels, the City of Asylum board of directors, their supporters, and staff.

“City of Asylum @ Alphabet City gives our organization a home of our own, the opportunity to put all our staff, programming, and outreach efforts under one roof,” said Reese.  Prior to the opening of its new building, City of Asylum relied on outdoor venues, like vacant lots, closed public streets, and parks, and private homes, to host its literary readings and music performances. In its new home, it will present 150 programs during its first year of operation.

In 9,000 square feet Alphabet City houses a flexible, acoustically-tuned performance space to accommodate groups as small as 10 and as large as 225 for readings, small-scale music and performances, and workshops, all with automated recording and broadcast capabilities.   Alphabet City will also include City of Asylum Books @ Alphabet City, a bookstore, and Casellula @ Alphabet City, an acclaimed cheese & wine café from New York.

City of Asylum @ Alphabet City amplifies the organization’s nationally acclaimed place-making impact.

City of Asylum @ Alphabet City offers visitors a wonderful opportunity to engage in exceptional arts, music and literary events programming, and while they’re here, to take advantage of other unique Northside destinations,” said Andrew Wickesberg, president of the Allegheny City Center Association.

City of Asylum @ Alphabet City includes eight (one/two/three bedroom) income-generating apartments on the upper floors; six apartments are rented at the market rate, and two apartments are offered at below-market affordable rents.  City of Asylum @ Alphabet City occupies the ground floor and basement levels.

Major project funders include the Allegheny Foundation, the Benter Foundation, the Fine Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, the Hillman Foundation, the Richard King Mellon Mellon Foundation, and City of Asylum’s board of directors. The URA through its Pittsburgh Urban Initiatives affiliate, together with PNC, contributed New Market Tax Credit allocations of $8 million; and the balance is a blend of federal and state historic tax credits, state grants, Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund, a façade grant, a grant from the Allegheny Regional Asset District, a loan from The Reinvestment Fund, and donations from the City of Asylum board. PNC was also the investor for the New Market and historic tax credits.

The Pittsburgh-based Dunham reGroup is the project manager for Alphabet City.  The building architects are Loysen + Kreuthmeier and Indovina Associates, led by Brian Kaminski, for the apartments and core and shell. Franjo Construction is the contractor. The new building is owned by COA Northside LLC.

For more information, contact:
Ayne Terceira
City Of Asylum


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