Pittsburgh's North Side neighborhood is home to The Mattress Factory, the Andy Warhol Museum, the National Aviary and the Children's Museum.
But it also is home to the City of Asylum, where writers whose lives were endangered in their home countries find a safe place to live and work in Pittsburgh.
A building abandoned in the 1990s now is filled with the sounds of jazz and revitalization. It's part of a $10.7 million project by the City of Asylum, which repurposed the old Masonic building on West North Avenue into "Alphabet City”: part bookstore, part performance space and part dining area.
Alphabet City was created to be a home for readers, writers and neighbors.
"There's jazz here, readings here, writers from all over the world, films that are shown," said Henry Reese, president of the City of Asylum.
Alphabet City is helping the entire neighborhood come alive.
"I have to tip my hat to Henry Reese and City of Asylum for having the vision to take a step forward to bring vibrancy to a block that hasn't seen it for decades," said City Councilman Daniel LaVelle, whose ward includes the building.
The blighted block was once anchored by an adult theater.
"The neighborhood is changing for sure. This is a really great time for Pittsburgh in general, and the North Side in particular. I think we are seeing great changes," said Reese.
September is jazz poetry month at Alphabet City and the City of Asylum, featuring free performances by jazz great Oliver Lake and Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith among others. To learn more about Alphabet City or the programs it offers, visit www.alphabetcity.org.
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