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Pittsburgh nonprofit to make bid on Wood Street building

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Nonprofit group Residences at Wood Street, which includes the city of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and local foundations, likely will bid to purchase the 16-story Wood Street Commons building, Downtown, and continue its mission as a home for low-income individuals.

Bids are being received for the building at 300 Wood St. by John Russell, a turnaround specialist with the Pittsburgh-based Meridian Group and the building's court-approved receiver.

"I understand this new nonprofit group is preparing to make a bid on the property," Russell said.

The building for more than 40 years has been a home for low-income individuals, and has about 250 tenants.

No deadline has been set for bids, Russell said.

There is plenty of support to maintain the building's use.

"We remain committed to preserving Wood Street Commons as a viable option and our economic development department is working with the city and other nonprofits to make sure that happens," said Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato.

PNC Bank, which holds a $2.97 million mortgage on the building, is in the process of foreclosing on the property. The property was scheduled for sheriff's sale on April 6, but Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Michael Della Vecchia, on Feb. 23, issued an order delaying the sale to May 4.

"PNC is working to ensure the community maintains a viable option for the type of service that Wood Street Commons offers," said PNC spokesman Fred Solomon.

That will give groups, such as the Residences at Wood Street, an opportunity to buy the building, and keep the operation, said Larry Swanson, executive director of Action-Housing Inc., a member of the nonprofit group. Other members are the city of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County's Human Services Department and local foundations, he said.

"PNC has been very supportive in the attempt to keep the building open and obtain a new owner," Swanson said.

The county, along with the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority, plan to provide $4 million to pay off the mortgage and cover the building's operating costs for a few years.

Action-Housing last year received $100,000 from the URA to develop a long-term revenue and financing plan for the building.

"Judge Della Vecchia also has set up a status report on the building with me on April 6," said Tom Mistick, an owner of the building. The other owner is the troubled federal mortgage giant Fannie Mae.

Mistick said problems started when the county ended its lease in September, cutting off the $90,000 monthly payment on which the facility depended.

The county's Department of Human Services leased nearly all the commercial space in the building, Mistick said.



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