PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – An agreement has been reached on the sale of the August Wilson Center.
After hotel planners 980 Liberty Partners backed out of a deal, the Coalitions of Foundations agreed to buy the center.READ MORE: Multi-Vehicle Crash With Injuries Shuts Down Liberty Bridge
The agreement was announced after hours of apparent negotiations in the chambers of Judge Lawrence O’Toole as a trial on various legal issues was about to begin.
A Sheriff’s sale originally scheduled for early October postponed until November. If this deal falls through, Dollar Bank will foreclose and sell the property at that sheriff’s sale.
The center named for the late, black Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright opened in 2009 but never covered its construction costs, and then suffered from poor attendance and defaulted on its $7.9 million mortgage.
The packed courtroom of Judge O’Toole in the Frick Building downtown broke out in applause and smiles when a scheduled trial ended up in a negotiated settlement. Tim Stevens, of the Black Political Empowerment Project waited and waited for testimony to begin. Then he noticed the Lawyers were shuttling back and forth from the judge’s chambers.
“I was surprised that it got worked out,” said Stevens. “We were getting a little frustrated sitting there for a while, but somebody did walk by and said everybody is in conversation. I took that to mean a good thing.”
The result: the people who wanted to build a hotel on the site and leave space for a cultural center as well, backed out. Why?
“It was important for us not to be the person who was going to stand in the way,” said Matthew Schollar of 980 Liberty Partners. “And we’re trying to do the right thing as we’ve done all along.”READ MORE: Law Enforcement Converges At Standoff In Fayette Co., State Troopers Not Injured In Gunfire
So a coalition of local foundations agreed to buy the property for eight and a half million dollars to settle the debt that previous owners owed Dollar Bank.
“This agreement is not a victory of one side over another, but a coming together in the true spirit of community,” said Carolyn Duronio, the attorney who represents the foundations. “We are thrilled to have reached this resolution.”
Now the foundations get to attempt to keep the center afloat.
“We now need to make it happen,” said Esther Bush of the Urban League of Pittsburgh. “We need to come together as a community and make sure that it happens. I’m happy.”
Former Pittsburgh councilman Sala Udin shared her sentiment.
“We all have another opportunity now to get it right and to try it over again and to build an African-American cultural center that is worthy of the name of August Wilson,” Udin said.
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