Aluminum, steel tower to dominate sale

| Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The buyer of Regional Enterprise Tower could get ownership of 1,500 tons of aluminum and 6,500 tons of steel if a sheriff's sale is held as scheduled on May 2.

That's how much aluminum and steel were used to build the former headquarters of the Aluminum Company of America, now Alcoa Inc., which opened in 1953. It cost $10 million to build and was promoted as the world's largest skyscraper to use that much aluminum. Alcoa used it until 1998, moving to a new building on the North Shore and donating what's now the Regional Enterprise Tower to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission for $1 in 1998.

The tower is expected to be the biggest of a number of million-dollar property sales at the Allegheny County sheriff's sale next month. Others include a 255-room hotel in Moon; two neighborhood shopping centers, a building owned by an architectural company and properties in Homestead that include the former Bev-O-Matic building.

Sgt. Richard Fersch, who conducts sheriff's sales in Allegheny County, said it is unusual to have that many $1 million-plus sales.

News reports going back to the 1950s said the former Alcoa building contains 3 million pounds of aluminum, and 13 million pounds of steel. The use of aluminum in the structure was said to be revolutionary: the exterior is aluminum, as are most of the doors, walls, window frames and plumbing. The original aluminum wiring, however, was replaced with safer copper.

At current scrap prices, that could bring about $4 million if the building were demolished and the aluminium and steel was sold. The tower's assessed value is $10.1 million.

"Aluminium prices range from 50 cents to 80 cents a pound, but the price for scrap from a large building would probably be in the higher price range," said Rob Casturo of Casturo Iron & Metals in McKeesport. Casturo said the steel scrap market is bringing 12 cents to 16 cents per pound. With the tower containing about 13 million pounds, if the higher price was given, that would yield $2.08 million. At 60 cents a pound, the aluminium scrap would bring about $1.8 million.

The tower is up for sheriff's sale because it has a $10.4 million debt and has lost several major tenants, causing a rental shortfall of about $800,000 a year, said Vince Massaro, finance director with the commission. At least one other major tenant is considering a move.

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Regional Corp., the commission's administrative arm, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 29. The filing in federal court in Pittsburgh lists the regional transportation planning group with assets of between $1 million and $10 million, against liabilities between $10 million and $50 million.

The bankruptcy came after the mortgage holder, First Commonwealth Bank of Indiana, Pa., filed a foreclosure complaint against on March 2.

The other noteable properties scheduled for the sheriff's sale include:

• The Holiday Inn at 8256 University Blvd., Moon, owned by MJ Pittsburgh Hotel Associates, which was foreclosed on by Bank of America, claiming debt of $11 million.

Bank of America and Berkada Commercial Mortgage LLC, filed a lawsuit to secure the 255-room hotel, which has been operating under the receivership of HIPA Associates LLC. Attorney Fowkes Rodkey Jr., representing the hotel, objected to naming a receiver.

In a filing, Rodkey said a receiver could not provide better operation than existing management. Its general manager was named General Manager of 2009 by the Pittsburgh Hotel Association and the Pennsylvania Tourism & Travel Association.

• The two shopping centers located at 5992-98 Steubenville Pike, Robinson, and at 3484 William Penn Highway, Wilkins. The Robinson property is owned by Robin Associates LLC which owes $6.3 million, while the Wilkins site is owned by Heritage Investment Properties LLC, which owes $2.5 million, court records show.

• A one-story office building, with 12,100 square feet, at 6450 Steubenville Pike, Robinson, owned by JSA Architecture Planning Engineering Interior Design. It owes $1.3 million, records show.

• In Homestead, the former Bev-O-Matic office and warehouse at 610 Amity St. corner 127 E. 7th Ave. Other properties included are a commercial dwelling at 117 E. 7th St., a commercial structure at 116-118-120 E. 6th Ave., and a parking area at E. 7th Avenue. Bev-O-Matic placed vending machines in mills, hospitals, office buildings and on college campuses.

Huntington National Bank foreclosed on the properties owned by Leslie I. Frank. Huntington claims Frank failed to make monthly payments on a $1.025 million loan and owes $982,618.

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