Penn Hills Red Phoenix: Envisioning a Safe Space for Pittsburgh-Area Youth


Sarah Holton

January 19, 2023

Social Sharing

Through our Open Hand Studio pro-bono design arm, we have had the wonderful opportunity to engage with Penn Hills Red Phoenix in Pittsburgh to help them create a safer, empowering space for Pittsburgh-area youth.

Penn Hills is a diverse community in Pittsburgh with a critical need for safe spaces outside of school for children and young adults ever since the local YMCA closed. Recognizing this, Penn Hills Red Phoenix is an organization of educators, community members and local business leaders working toward positive change.

The group purchased the abandoned Aster St. Public Library in Penn Hills with the goal of reimagining it as a community center. The new vision will create a dynamic space where young people can go to do homework, use technology labs, flexible indoor and outdoor areas for sports, performance, socialize and more. The building will also include offices and meeting rooms for Red Phoenix and other community organizations.


Our CannonDesign team connected with Red Phoenix through shared ties at the PennState Extension. Since then, we’ve helped with site investigation, stakeholder workshops, a conceptual program, building plans and renderings for the new community center. Red Phoenix will use our work as they further assess the project scope and apply for grants and philanthropic donations.

Beyond creating an exciting, safe haven for Penn Hills youth, this project is also an opportunity to revitalize a civic asset. The Aster St. Public Library was always intended to be a space for positive community experience that has been vacant for decades. Its rejuvenation will help nourish Penn Hills community fabric by numerous measures.