Pittsburgh's August Wilson Center for African American Culture in talks with N.Y. developer for hotel deal

The August Wilson Center for African American Culture is being taken over by a New York developer.

Under the sales agreement signed between 980 Liberty Partners and conservator Judith Fitzgerald, the reorganized center would receive free gallery and exhibition space on the first floor and limited office and storage space elsewhere in the building — subject to “reasonable and necessary design limitations and concepts.”

In addition, it would get use of the theater, to be renamed the “August Wilson Theatre,” for at least 120 days a year at a fee estimated at $1 a ticket.

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The agreement between 980 Liberty Partners and the center for the use of the space would run for five years with four consecutive five-year renewals if the two parties agree.

Details of the proposed arrangement were contained in the sales agreement signed May 27 and filed Wednesday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Orphans’ Court, eight days after Judge Lawrence O’Toole gave his approval to go ahead with the purchase.

The developer is offering the high bid of $9.5 million for the Downtown property with plans to build a 200-room luxury hotel on top. It also has said that it would offer space to the center, which is in default of its $7-million mortgage, to help it continue its mission as a source of African-American arts and culture programming.

Under the terms of the sale, the license agreement with the center would take a back seat to any hotel franchise agreement the developer reaches.

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