- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A western Pennsylvania judge has cleared the way for a court-appointed conservator to sell assets of Pittsburgh’s August Wilson Center for African American Culture to pay off debts estimated at $9.5 million to $10 million.

Allegheny County Judge Lawrence O’Toole on approved the petition by retired judge Judith Fitzgerald to change her role from conservator to liquidator, saying Monday that he found “no other reasonable or cognizable option.”

The judge rejected a bid by Pittsburgh attorney E.J. Strassburger to serve as a voluntary new conservator to try to save the center, which was named after Wilson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who grew up in the city’s Hill District.

The center opened in 2009 with the help of $17.4 million in tax dollars, but it has struggled with budget deficits, including a $7 million mortgage, after failing to attract projected attendance.

Fitzgerald told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after the decision that she expects to have a buyer for the $40 million building identified in the next 60 days to submit to the court for approval. She stressed, however, that the order wouldn’t bar someone from coming forward with a plan to save the center.


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