Foundations Acquire August Wilson Center

Just two days after it was reported that Dollar Bank had purchased the August Wilson Center for African American Culture in Pittsburgh at a sheriff's sale, three local foundations have taken control of the debt-ridden arts center, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

A consortium that includes the Pittsburgh Foundation, Heinz Endowments, and Richard King Mellon Foundation purchased the center for $7.9 million from the bank, which had acquired the property on Monday for $1,912.50 — the amount of the center's delinquent property taxes and costs associated with the sale of the property. Another $590,000 was paid to court-appointed conservator Judith Fitzgerald, who arranged the judicial sale, and her advisers, boosting the total paid for the property to nearly $8.5 million. Of the total, $2.45 million was contributed by the Heinz Endowments, $500,000 by the Pittsburgh Foundation, and $2.35 million by the King Mellon Foundation. Public agencies contributed another $3.15 million — $1.65 million from the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority and $1.5 million from the Allegheny Regional Asset District. To bolster the final bid, Thomas Tull, chairman, founder, and CEO of Legendary Pictures and part owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, contributed $500,000 through the Tull Family Foundation.

Work will begin immediately to assess the building, which has been closed to the public for more than a year, with a goal of reopening it by early 2015. According to the Post-Gazette, foundation officials plan to create one organizational entity led by African Americans to operate the building and a second to manage the center’s programming.

"We are delighted and grateful that the ownership of the August Wilson Center is back where it belongs as a community asset," the foundations said in a statement. "Many individuals and organizations have contributed enormously to saving the center, and many more will have important roles to play in safeguarding and developing this as a vital community resource for the future."

Mark Belko. "Dollar Bank Sells August Wilson Center to Three Pittsburgh Foundations." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11/05/2014.