As sale process drags on, August Wilson Center debts climb
As pressure builds for a receiver to close a sale, the debts owed by the August Wilson Center for African American Culture soon will top $10 million, court records show.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lawrence O'Toole approved this week nearly $80,000 in payments for work completed in January by receiver Judith K. Fitzgerald, her legal counsel and her consulting firm. That's on top of $167,226 in payments to those groups for work through the end of 2013.
With time and money running out, Fitzgerald is trying to drum up support from civic leaders and social organizations to complete a proposed purchase of the Downtown building and its air rights for $9.5 million to New York developer 980 Liberty Partners, Fitzgerald said in her fifth interim report to the court.
“Both the buyer and I work toward achieving this goal,” Fitzgerald wrote in a document entered into court records on Monday afternoon. “At this time, I believe that if this offer turns into a sale that the court accepts, AWC will be in a position to retain its mission at its current location, although much work must be done to develop a viable African American cultural organization in the Pittsburgh community.”
The deal is threatened by a legal dispute over deed covenants and backlash from civic leaders. The city's Urban Redevelopment Authority, which opposes the sale, argues that 980's plan for a 10-story hotel tower atop the two-story building would violate use restrictions limiting the property to a black cultural arts facility.
The URA — along with Mayor Bill Peduto, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and three foundations — want the center preserved as a “public asset.” It was built with at least $17.4 million in taxpayer money.
The center opened in 2009 and folded less than five years later as its debts ballooned. The center owes $7.96 million to Dollar Bank, and a couple of million to unidentified smaller creditors who, Judith Fitzgerald noted, continue to make demands for payment.
The debt to Dollar Bank increases daily because the bank foots the cost of maintaining and protecting the building while the receiver works on its sale. Dollar Bank has the right to foreclose or put the building up for bid if the deal with 980 deteriorates.
At the end of the month, Judith Fitzgerald will lay off two of three full-time employees working at the center. She is working to book events to help thwart a foreclosure and negotiating hourly compensation rates for staff needed for events.
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.
- Rossi: Rutherford falling apart, too
- Full basketball court to return to White Oak playground
- LaBar: WWE bans finishing move of top star
- Rangers clip Penguins, take 2-1 series lead
- Mon-Yough authorities investigate heroin, Fentanyl overdoses
- Avonmore man jailed on charges of stealing three cars Sunday
- Cubs’ rookie third baseman Bryant helps send Pirates to defeat
- Question Armstrong County candidates at forum in Manor
- McKeesport’s Auberle honors its all-stars at banquet
- Steelers receiver Brown skipping voluntary offseason workouts
- Ford City officials mum about litigation related to grant default