Pittsburgh, PA — March 18, 2013: City of Asylum/Pittsburgh announced this morning that Alphabet City® Literary Center will be the anchor tenant in the Garden Theater Block of the Federal North redevelopment project in Allegheny City Central. Alphabet City will occupy the three ground-level storefronts of the former Masonic Temple Building. Its projected opening is in the spring of 2014.
Originally planned for a triple lot on Monterey Street between Sampsonia Way and Jacksonia Street, Alphabet City will be a home for all things literary: A bookstore, as well as a free book-distribution program; a recording/broadcast-enabled performance space for readings and performances; space for workshops and classes, and a restaurant with internet access.
Henry Reese, co-founder and President of City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, said that the move to the Garden Theater block is a response to the concerns of two neighbors who appealed the zoning board’s approval of its original Monterey Street site. “By building Alphabet City in the heart of Allegheny City Central’s redeveloping commercial district, rather than in the residential interior, we are able to grow beyond our original plans. We will use our arts programming to lead in the economic resurgence of our community: The opportunity for Alphabet City to be at the most prominent location on the Northside means that we will be able to serve more people with our programs, and also create more jobs.”
“It’s particularly gratifying to be able to give pride of place, as it were, in our Garden Theater block to this newest and most exciting initiative of City of Asylum/Pittsburgh,” stated Barbara Talerico, President of the Allegheny City Central Association. “The organization has been a standard-bearer for arts-based community development for almost a decade. Alphabet City addresses all the major components of our 2009 Community Master Plan: promoting education, youth, arts and culture; enhancing neighborhood safety; revitalizing our residential and commercial properties; and increasing job opportunities for our neighbors. The build-out of this block, with City of Asylum/Pittsburgh as an important component, further extends the appeal and vibrancy of our neighborhood.”
Alphabet City will be a year-round hub for literary, musical, and community programming. “In addition to presenting our own programs, which have an international focus, we plan for Alphabet City to be a hub for Pittsburgh authors, musicians and community groups,” said Reese. “With a capacity of 150 and a living-room-feel, it will be an intimate space that enhances our informal, salon-style events, and it will prove a great complement to the nearby New Hazlett theater. Alphabet City’s state-of-the-art recording and broadcast technology will enable us to bring more of the world to Pittsburgh, and more of Pittsburgh to the world.”
Architects for the project are Loysen + Kreuthmeier Architects, who also designed the nearby Carnegie Library. Alphabet City will incorporate artworks made from more than 1000 hand-written alphabets in 62 writing systems, collected from Northside residents and visitors from around the world. “The handwriting comes from the people within our community, as well as from people across the world who have participated in our writer residencies, salon readings, and other programming,” said COAP co-founder Diane Samuels.
Founded in 2004, City of Asylum/Pittsburgh fosters freedom of expression, social justice and community development through writer residencies, publications, and literary programs. From our home on Pittsburgh’s Northside, City of Asylum’s programs and activities impact people on our street, in our city, and around the world. We publish Sampsonia Way online magazine: the online journal of free speech, literature and justice, serves a growing global community online. City of Asylum/Pittsburgh is a model for arts-based community development, bringing writers, readers and neighbors together through literature and cultural exchange.