PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Financial problems at the August Wilson Center in Downtown Pittsburgh make its future uncertain.
Some community leaders hope the public can play a role in saving the cultural programs offered by the center before it might disappear under the weight of red ink.
There are no easy answers as a court hearing on the center’s foreclosure approaches.
Seven years ago, ground was broken for the August Wilson Center and it was billed as an educational and cultural gem in Pittsburgh.
But operating costs are now out of control.
Just last month, Dollar Bank, now owed $7 million, moved to foreclose on the center’s mortgage.
Public and private dollars helped get it going, but now the Western Pennsylvania Black Political Assembly is calling on public officials to commit more public dollars to keep it open.
Rev. Thomas Smith of the Western Pennsylvania Black Political Assembly is asking and encouraging all candidates running for public office to publicly commit to financially supporting the August Wilson Cultural Arts Center.
“Just as what happened in Philadelphia, this was a commitment on the part of state representatives and legislators to ensure the continued operation of the cultural arts center there, we would like to see the same thing happen here,” says Smith.
There is a bill under consideration in County Council, for example, to help with capital improvement expenses, but only once the operating expenses issues have been settled and that likely will only be settled in court with the possibility of a change in management.
“I anticipate over four or five years we might be able to generate $4 million for capital needs at the August Wilson Center. There is no attempt to find money for operations. There’s no attempt to my knowledge to find any way to address the mortgage issue,” Allegheny County Councilman William Robinson says.
The broader community has taken notice. The Orchard Hill Church based in the North Hills now rent space at the center on Sundays for a Downtown service option.
It may not save the center, but it may help broaden the community’s awareness of what the center has to offer.
What happens next is in the hands of Common Pleas Judge Christine Ward who has scheduled a hearing on Dollar Bank’s foreclosure proceedings for Nov. 4.