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Arts, Sports & Culture

NY Developer is Top Bidder for August Wilson Center

A New York developer has emerged as the top bidder for Pittsburgh's bankrupt August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

At a hearing Monday Judge Lawrence O'Toole temporarily postponed a request to approve the $9.5 million bid from 980 Liberty Partners LLC of Monsey. Judith Fitzgerald, the court-appointed conservator endorsed the sale, which would pay off the center's $7 million mortgage as well as a nearly $600 thousand loan from the Urban Redevelopment Authority and other debts.   Fitzgerald said  the developer's bid could be "very attractive to the city, the county and the African-American community in Pittsburgh," because the proposed addition of a hotel on top of the existing building could subsidize arts-related programing.  

According to court papers Fitzgerald said 980 Liberty Partners would provide the August Wilson Center with free gallery and exhibit space plus the use of the 486-seat theater for at least 120 days per year.  The center would pay the developer $1 for each sold ticket.

But Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (no relation) object to the bid and prefer a lower one from a coalition of local foundations which said they wanted to "safeguard its purpose as the preeminent community resource for African American arts programming". The foundations later withdrew their $4 million offer when it became obvious the conservator favored the developer's bid which includes erecting a 200-room hotel on top of the existing structure.

O'Toole gave the various parties a week to file responses to the proposed sale.  The conservator is to meet with community groups this morning to discuss the fate of the August Wilson Center.