Photo by Alyse Horn
Attendees on the hard hat tour get a preview of what will be the second and third floor apartments.

By Alyse Horn

On Tuesday, May 10, the City of Asylum led a hard hat tour of the Masonic Building, located on the Garden Theater block, debuting what will become Alphabet City upon completion in September.

The first floor of the building will house the City of Asylum Bookstore, which will be home to the largest number of translated books in the United States, said Henry Reese, co-founder and president of City of Asylum.

Casellula, a restaurant run by Brian Keyser, will also be located on the first floor of the building. Keyser is the proprietor of Casellula Wine & Cheese Cafe in Manhattan, and the new location in the Masonic Building will be its second location outside of New York.

Reese said the bookshelves on the first floor will be on tracks, so they can be moved out of the way and open up the 9,000 square foot space to be utilized for meetings or private functions of up to 225 people.
Mayor Bill Peduto spoke at the event and said the completion of Alphabet City brings even more opportunities for people to express themselves.

“To have this facility here; the energy that will come out of it will be wonderful,” Peduto said.
The second and third floor will include eight apartments, with six rented at market rate and two affordable. The revenue will be used to generate funding for City of Asylum programs.

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Mayor Bill Peduto (left) and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (right) address the crowd on Tuesday, May 10 during the press conference for Alphabet City.

The project cost $12.5 million, and City of Asylum has raised $10.5 million. Adam Stokes, director of development for City of Asylum, said they still need to raise $2 million to fully fund the project and its endeavors for the next several years.

Dunham reGroup, a Pittsburgh based organization that is the project manager for Alphabet City, was able to obtain historic tax credits and new market tax credits for the project.

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.

The Allegheny Foundation, Benter Foundation, Buhl Foundation, Fine Foundation, Heinz Endowments, Hillman Foundation, Pittsburgh Foundation, Richard King Mellon Foundation and an anonymous foundation gave $3.2 million in grants.