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Inside Emerald City, the Pittsburgh coworking space with a mission to serve Black entrepreneurs

What sets the Downtown spot apart is the culture it provides.

The lounge at the Emerald City coworking space (Atiya Irvin-Mitchell/Technical.ly)

Emerald City describes itself as a place where business meets culture. The Downtown Pittsburgh coworking space wants Black entrepreneurs to not only feel comfortable growing their companies — but also feel at home.

It’s about more than just desks and WiFi. What sets Emerald City apart, said general manager Amanda Bey — and why startup founders and their staff work there instead of a coffee shop — is the culture and safe space it provides.

“When people come in they automatically feel at ease because they know once you’re here you can be yourself,” Bey told Technical.ly during a recent tour.

A person addresses a crowd from the entrance of the Emerald City Coworking Space in Pittsburgh, serving Black entrepreneurs, during a daytime event.

The Greenwood Plan ribbon cutting at the Pitt Building, where Emerald City is located (Courtesy Emerald City)

The three-story building at the intersection of Smithfield Street and Boulevard of the Allies was for a short while a different coworking space called the Beauty Shop. Emerald City cofounders Samantha Black and Khamil Bailey often worked there — and when it folded in 2022, they decided to take over.

Emerald City has already attracted a collection of well-known businesses, including the Citizen Science Lab, Black Tech Nation, and Brown Insurance Agency. Among the amenities offered are reservable conference rooms, event space rentals, concierge services, and curated programming.

Conference room with a long table, contemporary chairs, and an artistic chandelier.

Conference room at Emerald City (Courtesy Emerald City)

In total there are 135 members that use the work space, according to general manager Bey. Membership ranges from $40 for people who just want to use it as a mailing address, to social membership — which gets unlimited access to the space — to professional membership, which offers features such as bar cart service, unlimited use of boardrooms, and use of private offices.

With 12,000 square feet, the space also includes a third floor, which will provide a theater and event venue once renovations are complete.

Elegant interior of a spacious coworking space, with modern lighting and classic architectural details.

The Emerald City space features grand architecture (Courtesy Emerald City)

The 100-year-old building is owned by the Greenwood Plan, a nonprofit focused on supporting Black communities, advancing economic justice, and supporting Black businesses in Pittsburgh.

With that in mind, Emerald City offers a series of classes on topics ranging from how to start a business to securing insurance for your company. In the interest of helping young people discover their paths, Bey said, the coworking space often allows high school students to shadow and spend time in and observe entrepreneurs.

A row of doors labeled "phone room" and large windows letting in sunlight.

Phone booths for private meetings at Emerald City (Courtesy Emerald City)

“We definitely want to reach out for them to come down and kind of work in space to learn about all that we have to offer as well as getting a survey of different career fields that they’re interested in,” she said.

“This is a place where businesses prosper,” Bey added. “In Pittsburgh, it’s important for Black and brown people to have this place available. … We’re a hub for these different companies and entrepreneurs to have a space to be comfortable in [where] their business can grow.”

Modern coworking lounge area, with red sofas, wooden floors, and decorative plants.

The lounge at Emerald City (Courtesy Emerald City)

 

Signage titled "Welcome to Emerald City - Where Business Meets Culture" instructs visitors to ring the doorbell or call their contact for

Emerald City, “Where business meets culture” (Atiya Irvin-Mitchell/Technical.ly)

Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
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