Pittsburgh Foundations Won’t Compromise With Developer on Center

Pittsburgh Foundations Won’t Compromise With Developer on Center

The three Pittsburgh foundations working to save the debt-burdened see little possibility of reaching a compromise with the developer that has offered to buy the center's building for $9.5 million, the reports.

After meeting with a representative of 980 Liberty Partners, the New York real estate development firm that plans to build a hotel above the existing structure, representatives for the , , and said they would continue to pursue their own $7.2 million bid for the property — which includes a $2.2 million contribution from the Pittsburgh and Allegheny County — with the goal of maintaining the Wilson Center exclusively as a center for African-American arts and culture. Despite the more than $20 million in private funds and $17.4 million in public funds invested in the center to date, it defaulted on its $7 million mortgage last year, and its sale for $9.5 million has been tentatively approved by a court-appointed conservator. Mortgage holder Dollar Bank plans to foreclose on the building if it is not sold by October 6.

In a letter to 980 Liberty partner Matthew Shollar, Heinz Endowments president Grant Oliphant said that the differences between the developer's plan and the foundations' plan appeared to be insurmountable.

"It comes down to the simple truth that you want to build a hotel whereas we want to save the August Wilson Center — not a vestige of it, but the rich totality of what it stands for. For us, this building is a community asset and home to a noble ambition that still deserves to have a place of its own," wrote Oliphant. "For our part, we cannot accept the notion inherent in your plan of converting a $40 million public asset into a privately owned hotel when a simple plan to save that asset in full is being put forward by our foundations. In our view, your plan does great injustice to both the architecture and mission of the center, treating it as little more than a part-time theater."

Mark Belko. "." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 08/27/2014.