The Pittsburgh Hostel Project has found a home.
After four years of stalled plans and changing players, a director has been named and a building owner has offered 10,000 square feet above three South Side storefronts.
Tom Tripoli, developer of the Angel’s Arms Lofts in the South Side Slopes, owns the building at 14th and East Carson streets that’s home to the Beehive Coffeehouse, Rowdy Buck and Slacker.
“I bought this building in 1990 with the idea of putting in a hospitality component,” he said. “Here we are all these years later. This is a perfect location for a hostel.”
The city has been without one since 2005, when the Pittsburgh International Hostel in Allentown folded.
“One of the challenges in Allentown was that it was off the beaten path,” said Katherine Camp, a co-founder of the Pittsburgh Hostel Project.
The original planners researched for a business plan and consulted with members of previous hostel boards and representatives from Hosteling International.
“There is definitely a demand for this,” said project director Anne Marie Toccket, a professional grant writer. “When I was backpacking through Asia, I thought, ‘Man, I am going to miss hanging out with cool traveler types.’ Then I got home and found the hostel project.”
She said her informal research as a traveler tells her that well-located lodging with nightly rates between $25 and $75 in a vibrant commercial district near a bike trail would fill a significant gap for many visitors to Pittsburgh.
The Not Another Hostel in Lawrenceville, at notanotherhostel.org, is just a month old and is getting enough word-of-mouth that its several beds are booked through the next month. It is a donation-only venture that Jon Potter and Steph Bercht run out of their home near Children’s Hospital.
“The word is too much out at this point,” said Mr. Potter, who described it as a cross between a hostel and lodging for couch surfers. “The majority are 20-somethings, but we’ve had a French family of five and an older minister.”
The South Side hostel would include 60 to 70 beds, some in dormitories, some with two or three beds and a kitchenette. A preliminary drawing also includes a shared kitchen and library.
With a location secured, fundraising has begun at pittsburghhostel.org. Ms. Toccket will apply for county and state grants and appeal to foundations and will likely seek nonprofit status, she said, adding, “I don’t much care if it makes a profit as long as it can support itself and thrive.”
Mr. Tripoli is prepared to commit “at least half” the estimated cost of $1 million, he said. He will charge the hostel rent to pay off his loan.
“I want to help them out by making building improvements. There is really no guaranteed short-term benefit for me, but I would be thrilled to see this happen for them.”
He said he expects parking to be a zoning issue, “but I hope we won’t be as restricted” as a hotel. “A hostel is based on the idea that people get there on their own power. The target market will be young.”
He said he has never stayed in a hostel.
“I’m not a very well-traveled person, but I understand this contingency and want to support it. There’s a whole group of visitors that we could bring to Pittsburgh if we had a hostel.”