August Wilson Center Sold to Dollar Bank at Foreclosure Auction

August Wilson Center Sold to Dollar Bank at Foreclosure Auction

The August Wilson Center for African American Culture in Pittsburgh has been auctioned to its mortgage holder for $1,912.50, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

To preserve the debt-ridden center as a hub for African-American arts and culture, the Pittsburgh Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, and the Richard King Mellon Foundation, along with the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority and Allegheny County, had reached a deal in late September to purchase the property for $8.49 million. Allegheny County Common Pleas Orphans' Court Judge Lawrence O'Toole subsequently signed a judicial order approving the sale, free of all debt and liens, putting the deal on track to close by October 31. But International Investigative Services, which provided security at the center, filed an appeal with the Pennsylvania Superior Court to claim more than $200,000 that it was owed by the center. The foundations refused to close on the deal until the appeal was settled, and Dollar Bank, which holds the center's $7.9 million mortgage, went ahead with its foreclosure auction on November 3.

The bank's bid of $1,912.50 amounts to the taxes and costs associated with the sale of the property. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, there were no other bids, although an attorney for developer 980 Liberty Partners, which had planned to buy the property and build a hotel atop the center, was present. Matthew Shollar, a partner at the firm, has said he would be interested in pursuing the hotel project if URA and the three foundations are amenable to having that discussion.

"It is my understanding it still will be sold to the foundations," Kimberly Ellis, niece of August Wilson, the late Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, told the Post-Gazette. The sheriff's sale "could be the best thing that could have happened" for the center, she added, because it cleared the center of its debts and, therefore, all obstacles to its sale to the foundations and the URA. Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto "remains committed to the foundation-led plan to acquire the August Wilson Center and continue its nonprofit mission," the mayor's chief of staff said in a statement, "and we look forward to negotiating directly with Dollar Bank toward a successful closing."

John Ellis, a spokesperson for the foundations, was unwilling to speak on the record about the details of any impending deal with Dollar Bank but did tell the Post-Gazette that the foundations "continue to work toward a resolution that enables the August Wilson Center to be safeguarded as the community asset that it is."

Daniel Moore. "Dollar Bank Buys August Wilson Center for $1,912.50." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11/03/2014. Natasha Lindstrom. "Dollar Bank in Control of August Wilson Center's Fate After Sheriff's Sale." Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 11/03/2014.