Anne Marie Toccket knows hostels. In her travels through more than 40 countries, the 28-year-old Bloomfield resident has stayed in them almost exclusively.
She also knows that people often have negative perception of hostels, a form of lodging that is often shared, believing that because rooms are less expensive, they are dirtier or uglier than a hotel.
"Hostels get a bad rap," she said. "And it's really not fair."
She's hoping to correct that impression in the next year with the opening of a $1.1 million hostel with 60 to 70 beds on the South Side.
"Our goal really is to change that perception and to bring what I think, in fact, will be one of the most innovative, in terms of concept and design, [hostels] that exists in the United States so far," she said.
It's the Pittsburgh Hostel Project, and Ms. Toccket is the director.
Planning for a hostel in Pittsburgh has been underway for years, after one located in Allentown closed in 2005, although a Lawrenceville man has been running a donation-only hostel out of his home since June.
The hostel Ms. Toccket envisions is larger than the one in Lawrenceville, with rates starting at $25 a night, and programming that could include something like a pierogi-making class for newcomers to Pittsburgh.
Ms. Toccket was named director of the Pittsburgh Hostel Project last summer, when the group secured 10,000 square feet of space on two floors of a building at 14th and East Carson Streets on the South Side, which also houses the Beehive Coffeehouse.
Tom Tripoli, the building's owner, has offered to provide $600,000 of the costs to convert the building into a hostel, and Ms. Toccket is working to raise the remaining $500,000, through a combination of grants, crowdsourcing, donations from businesses and foundations, and fundraising events.
"The hope is that we can raise this money in Pittsburgh," she said.
Already, she said, the project has received a $15,000 pledge from American Eagle Outfitters, which has its headquarters on the South Side, and a $1,000 grant from the Sprout Fund to support community meetings about the hostel project.
Her goal is to open a hostel, with non-profit status, by early 2014. Ms. Toccket keeps in touch with many of the people she has met in her world travels and has told them about her hostel-starting plans.
They tell her that when the hostel opens, they will come visit.