August Wilson Center

August Wilson Documentary Debuts

Feb 18, 2015
The Huntington / Flickr

 

We talked with the producers of a new documentary nearly ten years in the making; "August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand" which focuses on the Pittsburgh born playwright and his ten plays over twenty years covering a one-century cycle of American history.

Our guests are Executive Producer Darryl Ford Williams and Deesha Philyaw, manager of the August Wilson Education Project.

The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh will hold a community-wide celebration on Sunday at the August Wilson Center. It will be the first time the center opens its doors since shuttering last fall. The center is not actually re-opened to the public yet.

“What better than the August Wilson Center,” asked Bush in terms of the decision to hold the event there, “I was extremely pleased that we were able to be accommodated.”

The celebration will be from 4-6 p.m. Sunday. There will be speeches by clergy, singing from a choir and snacks.

Was 2014 as Tumultuous as 1968?

Jan 2, 2015
Seth Anderson / Flickr

Post-Gazette columnist Tony Norman says when it comes to 2014, we probably haven't experienced as much turmoil in a single year since 1968.

From the riots in Ferguson and the nationwide demonstrations in reaction to police violence inflicted on African Americans to the debate over gay rights in the U.S., the American landscape was filled with social upheaval.

Do not expect to hear much out of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture for the next few months.

According to Pittsburgh Foundation spokesman Doug Root the Center will be entering a "quiet period" as an interim governing body has the facility assessed and searches for a new permanent oversight board.  

The temporary panel will include the heads of the Heinz Endowments, R.K. Mellon and the Pittsburgh Foundation — the three foundations that were instrumental in orchestrating a purchase of the bankrupt building from Dollar Bank.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

It’s been about 2 months since Mayor Bill Peduto has sat down in studio A for his monthly live interview.

We catch up with him and his take on the recent purchase of the August Wilson Center, what the election of Tom Wolf for governor means for Pittsburgh, his recent budget address and we’ll follow up on last month’s live community and police forum.

Oh, and what's up with this "Jagoff" in the dictionary thing???

thomas alan / Flickr

Now that a group of local foundations has purchased the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, and it's back in community hands, what is the best way for the Center to move forward?

We'll talk with Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Tony Norman who has plenty of ideas about what the AWC needs.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is offering praise for a deal between Dollar Bank and a group of regional foundations to sell the August Wilson Center.

“I am overjoyed to have the August Wilson Center for African American Culture back in the community’s hands, and we as a city owe thanks to all of those who worked to make it happen,” Peduto said.

The move comes just two days after the bank bought the building at Liberty Avenue and William Penn Place in downtown Pittsburgh at sheriff’s sale for $1,912.50. Dollar Bank held the delinquent $7.9 million mortgage on the building. 

Dollar Bank Buys August Wilson Center: What's Next?

Nov 4, 2014
Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

Now that Dollar Bank has purchased the August Wilson Center for African American Culture at a sheriff's sale, can a foundation group's plan to take over the building and re-open it under new leadership still go ahead?

We'll talk with Tribune-Review reporter Natasha Lindstrom about the latest developments.

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

The bank holding the delinquent mortgage on the debt-ridden August Wilson Center for African American Culture is now in control of the property following a sheriff's sale.

Dollar Bank, which has a $7.96 million mortgage judgment on the center, paid a little over $1,900 in taxes and costs associated with Monday's sale in Pittsburgh.

A consortium of charities was unable to complete an $8.85 million acquisition of the center by a Friday deadline due to an appeal filed by a security firm owed money by the center.

A new roof for City Theatre Company on the South Side, lighting for the baseball field at Boyce Mayview Park in Upper St. Clair and an updated heating and air conditioning system for the Mattress Factory museum on the North Side.

These are just a few of the dozens of projects the Allegheny Regional Asset District is planning to fund in 2015.

The ARAD board met Monday afternoon to consider the proposed $93.7 million budget, up from $91.2 million in 2014, and to hear public comment.

A New Deal for the August Wilson Center

Sep 30, 2014
Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

With an August Wilson Center deal all but done, we'll look at the surprise agreement to sell the embattled downtown cultural center to a coalition of foundations for $8.85 million. A New York-based developer with plans of turning the building into a hotel has offered $9.5 million for the structure, but community outcry asking for the center to remain a locally held cultural institute apparently tipped the scales toward the foundations' bid. Tribune-Review reporter Natasha Lindstrom joins us for an update.

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

As a final hearing on the future of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture was about to begin Monday morning, an $8.85 million settlement was announced by the creditors, Pittsburgh-area foundations and a second bidder. 

Previously a consortium of local foundations had bid $7.2 million.

A New York-based developer with plans of turning the building into a hotel had offered $9.5 million for the structure, but community outcry asking for the center to remain a locally held cultural institute apparently tipped the scales toward the foundations’ bid. 

Jess Lasky

Facing more than $9 million in debt, a possible foreclosure and two proposals for solutions, the August Wilson Center for African American Culture’s fate rests in the hands of the legal system, and the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) is urging that the center be left for it's original purposes.  

On Sept. 29 a trial will determine if the AWC has to uphold covenants that were set in place to protect the center when it was built just five years ago.

New Community Ideas for the August Wilson Center

Sep 4, 2014
AWC / Facebook

The August Wilson Center's future remains uncertain, but a group of community volunteers and activists have been holding community meetings to formulate a plan for a new August Wilson Center. The August Wilson Center Recovery Committee laid out the plans yesterday.

Group leader Janera Solomon and committee member E.J. Strassburger talk about their ambitions for the shuttered former center for African-American history. 

Read more about the details of the plan.

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

The August Wilson Center’s future remains uncertain, but a group of community volunteers and activists have been holding community meetings to formulate a plan for a new August Wilson Center.

The August Wilson Center Recovery Committee laid out plans for the center’s future, plans that group members said were formed by looking at past failures and successes. Group leader janera solomon said things must operate differently in the future.

Chris Squier / 90.5 WESA

Whether a cultural center can also be a hotel is one of the questions at the heart of the fight over the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

This week a group of foundations made a case for their $7.2 million bid to buy and maintain the center as it is. A hotel developer, bidding $9.5 million, believes the two entities can co-exist.

An Update on the August Wilson Center: The URA Strikes Back

Aug 1, 2014
Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

The battle for the future of the August Wilson Center has been a long and contentious one, but its a struggle that appears to be a ways off from its conclusion.

The building, named after the famous Pittsburgh playwright and dedicated to the celebration of African American culture, has been in trouble ever since it was completed in 2009. The building is valued at $40 million, and was put up for sale earlier this year.

New York developer 980 Liberty Partners has proposed converting the building, at least partially, into a hotel, and has the resources to purchase the center.

They face fierce opposition from the Urban Redevelopment Authority, who is trying to block the sale of the building by any means. Tribune-Review reporter Natasha Lindstrom stopped by to update us on the continuing saga.

Is An August Wilson Center Hotel On The Horizon?

May 30, 2014
Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

The past couple of years have been a struggle, to say the least, for the August Wilson Center and its owners. The building opened five years ago, named for the famous Pittsburgh playwright and dedicated to celebrating the contributions of African Americans in Western Pennsylvania. 

But construction costs, poor management, and other financial deficits added up, and now the building is on the verge of being sold to a New York developer, with a plan to converting the building into a luxury hotel. 

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Mark Belko discussed the struggling building’s future and explained what conservator Judith Fitzgerald meant when she said she was searching for a “global resolution."

A judge has approved plans to sell the bankrupt August Wilson Center for African American Culture to a New York developer that wants to put a hotel on top of the downtown Pittsburgh building.

Judge Lawrence O'Toole signed an interim order Tuesday that will allow 980 Liberty Partners to study whether the 200-room hotel is feasible. Liberty Partners had previously bid $9.5 million for the property, but the sale isn't final yet.

Heather McClain / 90.5WESA

Throughout the last year we’ve heard, and discussed at length, the problems faced by those who wish to save the financially troubled August Wilson Center.

Right now the fate of that facility is in the hands of a judge who may sell the building to pay off the center’s debts.

Janera Solomon, Executive Director of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater acknowledged there were missteps that led to the current state of affairs at the August Wilson Center. She is leading a group committed to achieving a vision for the center that will celebrate August Wilson, African American culture, and the city.

She said while the troubles faced by the August Wilson Center are unique for Pittsburgh, when it comes to cultural organizations throughout the country, many struggle in their first 5 to 10 years. 

On Tuesday morning, the receiver of the bankrupt August Wilson Center for African American Culture convened a meeting with several leaders in Pittsburgh’s black community.

Judith Fitzgerald, the receiver, got the names of those invited from Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (no relation). The meeting was an effort to give the community a status update on the center, but several in attendance said communication needs to be better going forward.

A New York developer has emerged as the top bidder for Pittsburgh's bankrupt August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

The ongoing plight of the August Wilson Center continues with some bidders showing interest and others withdrawing. 

Pittsburgh City Paper reporter Rebecca Nuttall has been covering the ongoing news of the troubled arts center and the latest group of possible bidders.

“The first bid that the public heard about was a $4 million bid from three Pittsburgh foundations, the Heinz endowments, the Pittsburgh Foundation and the Richard King Mellon foundation. And a lot of the community seemed to support that a bit.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald have asked for the removal of Judith Fitzgerald (no relation) as receiver of the bankrupt August Wilson Center for African American Culture.  

The mayor and county executive sent a letter Tuesday to Lawrence O’Toole, the administrative judge of Orphans’ Court to remove Fitzgerald.

The debt-ridden August Wilson Center might have a buyer.

A group of local foundations, including the Pittsburgh Foundation, submitted a bid last week to acquire the downtown Pittsburgh African American cultural center which is delinquent on its $7 million mortgage.

Allegheny County Councilman Bill Robinson (D-Hill District) is asking for $10 million to $15 million in capital funds from the city and county to bail out the financially strapped August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

About $7 million would be used to pay off the center’s unpaid bills, including its mortgage, and keep the facility, which is facing liquidation. The legislation was introduced in County Council by Robinson who did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

In 2009, a gleaming performing arts space opened to great fanfare in downtown Pittsburgh.

Named after renowned playwright and native son August Wilson, it was meant to be a hub for African-American theater, art and education.

Today, the August Wilson Center is for sale, unable to pay its bills. But many wonder why it was allowed to get to this point.

August Wilson grew up in Pittsburgh’s Hill District in the 1940s and '50s. He met Sala Udin in parochial school.

August Wilson Center Must Find Deep-Pocket Donors

Feb 6, 2014
AWC / Facebook

The plight of the August Wilson Center has been a source of constant stories in the local media.

Despite liquidation, debt and other fiscal battles many are working hard to save the center.

City Paper reporter Rebecca Nuttall has followed  efforts and provides an update on the latest news regarding the August Wilson Center.

The building, which took $42 million to open in 2009, had more construction costs than were originally estimated and put the center in debt before it had even opened. Nuttall says a lot of the people she talks to seem to have great ideas about how to save the center, but the financial backing may not be available. 

An Uncertain Future for the August Wilson Center

Oct 4, 2013
AWC / Facebook

When it comes to the August Wilson Center's current financial situation, cost and constructions fees caused “substantial debt” from the beginning, says Mark Clayton Southers, a playwright and former producer at the center.

Charlie Humphrey, CEO and Executive Director of Pittsburgh Filmmakers, says a problem the August Wilson Center faces now is that “nobody wants to fund debt” people want “to fund programs.”

Southers agrees that it's hard to fund a sinking ship and adds that some creative solutions are needed to gather enough funds to clear $7 million in debt.

The Interim President and CEO of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture Oliver Byrd said in an interview on Wednesday that his organization is getting itself on the track to financial stability.

On Tuesday, Byrd sent a three-page letter to supporters of the center and to the media, outlining what he sees as the issues the organization has faced and the path they will take moving forward.

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