Debt-Ridden August Wilson Center Saved by Local Efforts

A group of local civic groups joined together to buy the African American cultural center for $8.49 million.

The looming sale of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture was avoided on Monday when Pittsburgh-area civic groups teamed together to broker an eleventh-hour deal, WTAE reports.

The $8.49 million sale was bid by the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority and several other local foundations, at $1.29 million more than the foundations, city and county had initially offered.

“This is in many ways a Wilsonian ending. The great public asset of art and the great contributions of black art have been returned to the public. That’s extremely important,” Kimberely Ellis, a niece to August Wilson, told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Opened in honor of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who grew up in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, the center gradually sunk into a $10 million debt due to various factors, including low attendance and an unpaid construction cost.

WTAE also reported that a New York developer had bid $9.5 million to construct a 10-story luxury hotel while providing a limited free space for the center. The high offer was turned down by government officials who said the building must be used exclusively as a Black cultural center, as per the deed covenants.

"I am very pleased that through collaboration among the city, Allegheny County, our foundation community and Dollar Bank, we reached a settlement today that preserves the future of the August Wilson Center as a place to celebrate African-American culture," Mayor William Peduto said.

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(Photo: August Wilson Center via Twitter)

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