aaron walton william curtis

Former August Wilson Center Board Chair Aaron Walton & Mt. Ararat Baptist Church Pastor William Curtis (Courier Photo/J.L. Martello)

After being instructed by Bankruptcy Judge Lawrence O’Toole to delay the sale of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture to developer 980 Liberty Partners, receiver Judith Fitzgerald held a closed-door meeting to introduce the developer to the community.

Last week, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (no relation) and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto asked O’Toole to remove Fitzgerald as receiver after she announced her preference for 980 Liberty Partners, which offered $9.5 million for the bankrupt August Wilson Center.  All the other bids for the property, including one from a consortium of local foundations, came in at $4.5 million or less.

980 Liberty Partners’ plan calls for building a 200-room hotel above the center, preserving the architecturally unique building and its mission. The company’s bid would pay off a $7.5 million mortgage owed to Dollar Bank, more than $500,000 in URA loans, back taxes and fines.

In exchange, 980 Liberty Partners would receive the building, the air rights, and a liquor license. The partners would provide the Wilson center free gallery, storage and exhibit space and use of the 486-seat theater for a minimum of 120 days out of the year.

Some of those attending the April 29 meeting included Black Political Empowerment Project Chairman Tim Stevens, Mt. Ararat Baptist Church Pastor William Curtis, Urban League of Pittsburgh President and CEO Esther Bush, Pittsburgh Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle, County Councilman Bill Robinson, and former board members Nancy Washington and Aaron Walton.

Walton told Pittsburgh Urban Media last week he favored the 980 Partners bid.

(More details in next week’s Courier.)


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