Public Media for Central Pennsylvania
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Organizers hope new ‘Railroad City Cultural Center’ will strengthen community ties in Altoona

Andraé Holsey holds his daughter while standing next to a sign reading "Railroad City Cultural Center - brought to you by 41st Acre, LLC."
Sydney Roach
Andraé Holsey holds his daughter at the entrance of the new Railroad City Cultural Center in downtown Altoona. Holsey said part of the reason he wants to bring more culture to Altoona is so his daughter has a better place to grow up.

Organizers say a new cultural center in downtown Altoona will offer live music, after school mentorship, and a place for people of different religious and cultural views to talk.

41st Acre, LLC runs the Railroad City Cultural Center, which makes up 65,000 square feet out of the total 155,000 square feet in the Gable’s building, which was condemned briefly by city officials earlier this year. Some businesses did not return, leaving extra space and leftover resources in the building.

A side view of the Gable's building in downtown Altoona at the 14th Street and 12th Ave intersection. The new Railroad City Cultural Center is at the side entrance, as seen at the bottom right of the photo.
Sydney Roach
A side view of the Gable's building in downtown Altoona at the 14th Street and 12th Ave intersection. The new Railroad City Cultural Center is through the side entrance, shown on the bottom right side of the photo.

"I can literally fit a hundred of my house in this building and still have room," said Andraé Holsey. He's the owner of 41st Acre and the president of the Blair County Branch of the NAACP.

"The mission of 41st Acre LLC, is to empower and uplift organizations and individuals to make a positive impact in their community," Holsey said. "We realized very quickly, when we were working in the building already with organizations like the NAACP, that there were a lot of unused resources that had sat here for decades," Holsey said.

Music Helps is one of the businesses collaborating with Holsey at the new Railroad City Cultural Center. Matthew Sheedy is the owner of the music performance and instruction business. He said the center will help musicians get exposure.

“They don't get to have the chance in Philly because Philly’s PHILLY. They have enough. So let's go to Altoona and create a name for ourselves," Sheedy said.

Sheedy said his new storefront at the cultural center will offer after school music lessons and mentorship by the end of the year.

"It's a pretty beautiful thing that [Holsey] is trying to create something in Altoona that needs to be in Altoona," Sheedy said. "You know, something for the community, something for the arts, something for the small businesses, something for the young adults that can start their drive or start their motivation on what they want to do with life."

“Within Blair County, there is no one place that you can look at and see all things cultural all the time. We have lots of great community organizations that do parts of that. But space is limited, resources are limited," Holsey said.

Holsey envisions daily community activity in the center, including dance lessons, music recordings, and political discussions.

“We're going to continue to look at small and startup businesses, minority and women and veteran owned businesses and community impact businesses to continue adding to this suite as we expand," Holsey said.

Holsey hopes to empower businesses and individuals through the resources and space available in the Gable’s building. Businesses that do music lessons, recordings and music videos, along with a photography studio are already using the space or renting an office there.

The Railroad City Cultural Center’s grand opening will be on Saturday, June 8.

Sydney Roach is a reporter and host for WPSU with a passion for radio and community stories.