UPDATED: Allegheny City CEO on dropped URA deal: ‘time ran out’

Updated August 29 with quotes from City of Asylum.

Yesterday, Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority terminated a deal with Philadelphia-based Allegheny City Development Group LLC to rebuild the Masonic Temple building in the North Side’s Garden Theater block.

The Pittsburgh Business Times, Post-Gazette, and Tribune-Review have stories about the scrapped deal.

“City of Asylum said they didn’t want to work with us anymore,” said Wayne Zukin, president of Zukin Realty, who also heads Allegheny City, told Post-Industrial this afternoon.

Zukin would not go into detail about why City of Asylum (COA) — a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit refuge for foreign national scribes — didn’t want to work with Allegheny City. “They knew the URA would work with them directly,” Zukin said.

Henry Reese, co-founder of City of Asylum, was reticent about getting into a tit-for-tat with Zukin over the agreement, but he said COA signed “three or four” agreements with Zukin. “We kept signing leases while he put his financing together,” Reese said.

“We’re doing our best to salvage this,” he continued. COA is in talks with URA to make sure Alphabet City can operate at the Masonic Temple.

“This has been going on a long time,” he said. “We need some certitude.”

Zukin stressed that he still owns the Garden Theater; the URA owns the rest of the North Side block.

Before the deal went awry, Zukin explained that Allegheny City had agreed to refurbish the Masonic Temple building and that COA would lease the building’s first floor. The rest of the building was slated for loft apartments. Zukin said he is being reimbursed by URA for work done, though Allegheny City hasn’t done any physical work to the Masonic Temple building — only work on architectural drawings, tax credit consultation, and legal fees. Zukin declined to say how much URA owes Allegheny City.

“We’d like to see the restaurant open by the end of the year. But it’s getting tight.”

Zukin simply said that “time ran out of time to put together a deal” though alluded to unspecified problems with COA that caused that delay.

“I’m still really positive about the rest of the project on the block,” he said. “I hope they are successful because that’s good for all of us.”

Reporting by Carmen Gentile, editing by Matt Stroud.

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