Attention Pittsburgh artists and makers: Allentown has a warehouse they want you to call home.
The Hilltop Alliance is offering 5,500 square feet of studio space at a discounted rate to local makers and artists in exchange for a two-year lease and a commitment to creating a temporary pubic art project along East Warrington Avenue.
The program, dubbed Industry on Industry, is part of the Hilltop Alliance’s Business District Revitalization Program, which offers a 50% rent abatement to new businesses that open along Allentown’s East Warrington business district for their first year.
The organizers hope to attract at least five participants, each of whom will be eligible for up to 1,100 square feet of studio space at a rate of $3 per square foot per year. The space will be partitioned within an existing warehouse at 829 Industry St., one block from the heart of East Warrington.
Participants will be selected not only for their artistic quality and vision but also the strength of their business plan and commitment to staying in Allentown after the two-year abatement ends.
Aaron Sukenik, executive director at the Hilltop Alliance, says that the program is not an artist-in-residence program, or even a short-term artist co-location space. “The goal,” he says, “is to engage the participants into the community and really help them with their business so that they stay in the community after the rent abatement.”
It’s a point that is echoed by Josh Lucas, founder of Work Hard Pittsburgh co-working space and a member of the Allentown Business District Committee.
“Entrepreneurship only works if you figure out a path to sustainability,” he says. “In those two years, [participants] are going to receive help, some training and some frank conversations about what it’s going to take to get them from something that might be solely creative to something that is monetizable with predictable income.”
Community members have already identified vacant lots and other areas along East Warrington that would benefit from public art, but ultimately it will be up to the artists, with input from the community, to determine what the final installations will look like.
The studio space is owned by real estate firm RE360. The company’s founder, Joe Calloway, says that another artist, Chase McBryde, owner of RIP PGH Design and Fabrication, was already using the space and helping to pay for rent through work commissions. He credits his Director of Real Estate & Operations, Sarah McGonagle, for recognizing that this model could be expanded to beautify as well as attract foot traffic to the neighborhood.
While the cheap rent and central location might be the primary draws, there’s one thing Calloway believes that will keep artists here long-term: “The people in the community are the biggest sticking point,” he says, adding his belief that all of them are determined to make Allentown a great place to live.
“Everybody is really invested,” says Lucas. “I think that’s the great differentiator about this neighborhood. The idea that there are honestly 20 really mature organizations working to figure out how you take a neighborhood like this, give it an economic boost, but retain its character and be mindful of who lives here, and include the people who already live here.”
Interested parties may attend an information session Wednesday, February 24 at 3:30 p.m. at the warehouse, located at 829 Industry Street. Applications are due by March 11. More information is available by contacting Siena Kane at the Hilltop Alliance at firstname.lastname@example.org