Heinz Endowments Seeks Return of $500,000 August Wilson Center Grant

The in Pittsburgh has filed a petition seeking the return of a $500,000 grant it awarded in 2007 to the , which is now in conservatorship, the reports.

In a petition filed in Allegheny County Common Pleas Orphans' Court, the foundation argued that the center has ceased to operate and no longer qualifies for the permanently restricted endowment grant, which came with a stipulation that the funds would be returned should the center "for any reason cease operation." The petition noted that the court-appointed conservator, Judith Fitzgerald, is trying to sell the center's downtown Pittsburgh building and that Dollar Bank, which holds the center's delinquent mortgage, plans to foreclose on the property in October if the building isn't sold by then.

"[I]t is inconceivable that the center could continue to operate during foreclosure proceedings as was contemplated at the time of the grant," the foundation noted in its filing.

Fitzgerald — who has yet to see the petition — told the Post-Gazette she will oppose the endowments' request, noting that the center has hosted ten events between the end of June and early August and "isn’t shut down." She has approved the sale of the center's building to real estate development firm 980 Liberty Partners for $9.5 million, which plans to develop a ten-story hotel on top of the center, while the Heinz Endowments, the , and the , with support from Allegheny County and the Pittsburgh , have proposed a $7.2 million "standby" plan to keep the center operating as a solely nonprofit entity.

"There is no intent to shut down the August Wilson African American cultural organization, not by 980 and not by the foundations," Fitzgerald told the Post-Gazette, adding that the original $500,000 grant from Heinz remains in a trust. With permanently restricted endowment grants, the principal amount is protected while the interest generated by the funds can be spent.

The foundation wants to use the grant funds to "support African American arts and culture in some capacity in the Greater Pittsburgh area," said Heinz Endowments spokesperson John Ellis. "It is our hope that they can be used in conjunction with our plans for the August Wilson Center if our bid is successful."

Mark Belko. "." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 08/12/2014.