Reinvestment Fund is financing local nonprofit City of Asylum to transform a former Masonic Hall in the Mexican War Streets neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA, into the Alphabet City Cultural Center. The renovated facility will include ground floor retail, nonprofit office space and rental apartments. Of the eight residential units, 25% will be rented at prices affordable to low-income residents (living at 80% area median income or below).
City of Asylum is an international project founded by writer Salmon Rushdie to provide safe havens for artists seeking asylum from their home countries; the Pittsburgh branch began in 2004 with a mission to house writers in exile from all over the world. The organization will use the building’s commercial space for a combination of its offices, performance and gallery space, and a cafe that will provide free- or low-cost cultural options to the community.
The Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) considers the redevelopment of this block to be a lynch pin for the broader revitalization of the Mexican War Streets, which is a lower income area (15% – 25% of the population lives in poverty) on the city’s North Side. The community is undergoing a resurgence due to its quality transit access, proximity to the downtown and major stadiums, and affordability. Also underway is the redevelopment of a small local theater into a restaurant and commercial space, which is being financed by the URA and local CDFI Bridgeway Capital, which is also participating in this loan.