Financially troubled August Wilson Center attracts 4 investment proposals
Four offers to buy the debt-ridden August Wilson Center range from $3.25 million to $9.5 million, with the highest bid paying off all creditors and preserving the center's mission as a venue for African-American culture.
“We are fortunate that we have received these bids, and they are currently being evaluated in terms of the capability to address the organization's mission,” Judith K. Fitzgerald, the Downtown center's court-appointed receiver, said in a news release. Fitzgerald on Thursday filed a report in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court detailing the offers.
Although the report does not identify the bidders, Fitzgerald said the highest offer came from a company that wants to build commercial space above the existing structure on Liberty Avenue. She said it was the only offer that would pay off the center's liens and other debts, estimated at $10 million. Of that, $7 million is owed to Dollar Bank, which tried to foreclose on the center last year when it failed to pay its mortgage and insurance.
The $9.5 million offer preserves the center itself. The buyer would obtain the building's liquor license and pay off the center's debt while letting it use the existing gallery, offices and storage space for free. The center could use the theater for at least 120 days or nights a year for a nominal amount.
Fitzgerald said the proposal could be “very attractive to the city, the county and the African-American community in Pittsburgh, because the commercial operations will generously subsidize the center and bring tax benefits to the city and county.”
Two other offers are from commercial groups that would buy the building and liquor license for $4.5 million and $3.25 million, respectively. They would use part of the building for restaurants, bars and entertainment and possibly add a rooftop garden.
The last offer is for $4 million from a group of charitable foundations. Sources identified them as The Pittsburgh Foundation, The Heinz Endowments and the Richard King Mellon Foundation. They would dissolve the old nonprofit group and start a new one that would promote African-American culture.
Eric Schaffer, an attorney for Dollar Bank, had no comment on the report. John Ellis, a spokesman for The Pittsburgh Foundation, also declined to comment.
Financial problems plagued the $40 million center, named for the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright from the Hill District, from its opening in 2009. The center did not raise enough money to cover its construction costs and cost overruns. The court appointed Fitzgerald as a conservator in a last-ditch effort to save the center and later as a receiver to sell off its assets to pay its debts. The Attorney General's Office intervened on behalf of taxpayers, who paid $17.4 million in state money to build it.
Fitzgerald asked the community for help in the selection of a bidder. The ultimate decision comes from the Orphans' Court.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- NFL coaches weigh in on Polamalu’s legacy
- Hit sends Penguins’ Letang to hospital
- Mt. Lebanon native, Iraq war hero’s action goes unrewarded
- Shortfalls sabotage promise of a union retiree’s pension
- Starkey: Next frontier for Steelers offense
- Pirates pitchers finding success with expanded strike zone
- Probiotic bacteria help conquer ‘superbugs’
- Man rescued from sinkhole in McKeesport
- Downie’s goal, fight spark Penguins to win over Coyotes
- Alvarez latest in Pirates’ revolving door at first base
- Pirates notebook: Polanco’s power outburst a matter of timing