Historic Pitt Building becoming place for Black businesses to flourish as it’s now Black-owned after $4M purchase

Abu Mubarik March 25, 2024
Image of Downtown Pittsburgh. Credit: CBC/Wikimedia Commons

Greenwood is coming to Pittsburgh, PA, thanks to Greenwood Plan, a nonprofit organization whose name is rooted in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, OK (“Black Wall Street”). 

Last December, the organization finalized the acquisition of the historic Pitt Building, located in downtown Pittsburgh, PA, and intends to convert it into an incubator for Black-owned businesses while making it a community and coworking space.

Khamil Bailey, the executive director of The Greenwood Plan, confirmed the purchase of the facility for $4 million.

“We want this to be a black business incubator… Give black businesses the opportunity to operate in downtown storefronts where they may not have otherwise been able to do so because the terms are not normally favorable. We want to do that through programming and rent subsidies, giving people the training wheels to be able to get into these spaces and get the revenue that comes with the traffic that comes with being Downtown,” Bailey said to The New Pittsburgh Courier.

According to the Pittsburg Courier, there is a dearth of black businesses Downtown. Bailey said there are 10 units open to businesses or organizations in the Pitt Building; three are occupied by Emerald City, a Cricket cell phone store, and a Traveler’s Aid of Pittsburgh nonprofit. Bailey hopes to see the rest of the units leased to black-owned businesses or nonprofits.

“I know that back in the early 1900s, there were black businesses that operated Downtown,” Bailey told the Courier. “… We want to bring that back and remind people that we (African Americans) are a part of a thriving economy just as anybody else, not just as consumers but as wealth-builders.”

The historic property was acquired by Greenwood Plan after it opened Emerald City, a 12,000-square-foot coworking and social space, on the second floor in 2021. Its purchase of the building is now in line with its purpose of “connecting partners, resources, and initiatives to Black entrepreneurs, professionals, gig workers, and creatives,” according to its website.

Commenting on the type of business she wants in The Pitt Building, Bailey told the Courier that she wants businesses that can contribute positively to the community.

“If you have a business that you feel can contribute positively to the community, those are the types of businesses that we want,” Bailey said.

She also disclosed that they have earmarked a four-star restaurant to serve black cuisine because they want a black, four-star dining experience to be part of the building.

“When people come to visit the city and they ask, ‘Where should I go to get food?’ people immediately say, They have to come down to this restaurant,” Bailey said.

Bailey, an East Orange, N.J., native, came to Pittsburgh in 2005 to attend the University of Pittsburgh. The first time she arrived in Pittsburgh, Bailey said she was “culture shocked.” She felt that “there was no indication that Pittsburgh had a healthy relationship with their Black folks…And I come from a place where it is starkly different. Principals are Black, my mayor was Black, doctors were Black. I saw Black business owners. I saw Black people occupy various socio-economic statuses and education levels, so I had this very holistic view of Black people, and when I got to Pittsburgh, that just was not the case.”

Her organization’s purchase of the historic building is thus in line with its mission of “advancing economic justice for Black communities.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: March 25, 2024


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