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People protest Wilson Center closing, possible sale

| Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, 5:15 p.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
A group of children, all third and fourth generation cousins of August Wilson, rally in front of the August Wilson Center, Downtown, on Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. The children, part of The Pittsburgh Youth Empowerment Summit, held the rally outside the center, calling for Dollar Bank and other creditors to take no further action on foreclosure and liquidation until a full investigation by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is made public.

Renee Wilson Gray lined up eight of her 32 grandchildren outside the dark, shuttered August Wilson Center for African American Cultural Center on Liberty Avenue Friday afternoon and smiled as the children, aged 5-12, chanted “Save the August Wilson Center.”

“August was my first cousin. I didn't know him, but the legacy of August Wilson is a breath of fresh air for black people in the city. Something like this should be subsidized. There is a need for it,” said Gray, 53, of the North Side.

The eye-catching, 4-year-old, $40 million facility named for the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, was handed over to a court appointed conservator last fall, after center officials defaulted on a $7.06 million mortgage. Last month, a local judge gave conservator Judith Fitzgerald permission to begin preparations to sell the facility and liquidate its assets to pay off an estimated $9.5 million to $10 million in debt.

Fitzgerald said she will entertain proposals from prospective buyers until March 31. She must seek approval from Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Lawrence O'Toole for the sale of the facility.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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