URA and City of Asylum Remain Committed to Alphabet City in the Masonic Building

Masonic Building in the Garden Theater Block
Masonic Building in the Garden Theater Block will be the home of City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s Alphabet City

The City of Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) announced today that Allegheny City Development Group will no longer be the developer of the Masonic Building in the Garden Theater Block on Federal Street. The URA has terminated the rights of the developer following a short-term extension that had been granted in June.

The anchor tenant for the Masonic Building is Allegheny City Central-based nonprofit City of Asylum/Pittsburgh (COAP). COAP remains committed to the project and intends to build out Alphabet City™, a literary center that will include performance and workshop spaces, the organization’s offices, a bookstore, and a restaurant.

COAP is one of several cultural institutions in Allegheny City Central℠ that is part of the neighborhood’s renaissance.

“City of Asylum has contributed to the vitality of our neighborhood, bringing residents of diverse backgrounds together,” according to Andrew Wickesberg, president of Allegheny City Central Association (ACCA).

The URA, which owns the Masonic Building, is working with COAP to move the project forward. The ownership and development structure of the project will be worked out in the coming weeks.

“Throughout this long process, it’s easy to get discouraged,” says Henry Reese, co-founder and president of City of Asylum Pittsburgh. “The encouragement and support of neighbors has kept us focused on the goal of getting Alphabet City built and open.”

“While we are disappointed that this means another short-term delay in a project that has already seen many delays, we are encouraged by City of Asylum’s continued commitment to the project and to our neighborhood,” adds Tom Hardy, executive director of ACCA. “As a result of this change, the project may be better positioned to succeed in the long term and meet its goal of anchoring the revitalization efforts along our commercial corridor.”

Allegheny City Development Group will continue to develop the Garden Theater. Construction on this space, which will feature ARDE Restaurant, is well underway and is not affected by today’s decision. Other properties in the Garden Theater Block, including the Bradberry apartment building, were marketed to developers through a Request for Proposal process.



3 Responses to “URA and City of Asylum Remain Committed to Alphabet City in the Masonic Building”

  1. How does the entire neighborhood of East Liberty get developed overnight, but the North Side can’t develop THREE BUILDINGS over a period of a decade? Get it together – we no longer have patience for this type of failure.

  2. It is easy to get discouraged after constant dead ends and no action. Pretty master plans are useless without people to be a part of it. I would be worried if I was the owner of ARDE

  3. The Garden Theater Block project has some unique challenges that were not present in East Liberty. In particular, the desire of the neighborhood to preserve these historic structures carries significant costs and challenges. It’s relevant to note that the commercial revitalization in East Liberty began with projects that were new construction such as Home Depot and Whole Foods. The Highland Building is finally being renovated, but that is a building that sat vacant for a decade and also went through a series of development proposals that didn’t pan out. East Liberty’s commercial revitalization also benefits from the neighborhood’s location proximate to the City’s most affluent areas such as Squirrel Hill, Point Breeze and Shadyside.

    While we are all frustrated with the pace of progress on the Garden Theater Block project, these recent changes will result in a stronger project.


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