Monday, August 6, 2012

Owner of Union Trust Building in Pittsburgh seeks protection - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette

The Union Trust Building

The Union Trust Building, one of Downtown's most prominent structures, sidestepped a possible sheriff sale Monday after its owner sought protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Pittsburgh.

As a result, the fate of the ornate Flemish Gothic building, built nearly a century ago by industrialist Henry Clay Frick, likely will rest in the hands of a federal bankruptcy judge.

Friday's Chapter 11 filing by 501 Grant Street Partners LLC in essence halted the sheriff sale that was to take place Monday. U.S. Bank, the mortgage holder, had filed for foreclosure after Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Christine Ward ruled last spring that the owner had defaulted on loan payments.

At the time, she set the amount owed by 501 Grant Street Partners at $41.1 million, including interest and other costs.

On Friday, in anticipation of Monday's sheriff sale, U.S. Bank paid nearly $1.1 million in city, county and Pittsburgh school district real estate taxes due on the property. That would have prevented another buyer from acquiring the building for the taxes due.

Because of the Chapter 11 filing by 501 Grant Street Partners, U.S. Bank now will have to petition a bankruptcy court judge for the right to go ahead with a sheriff sale.

Lisa Stauffer, an attorney representing U.S. Bank, declined comment on Monday. Roger Bould, attorney for 501 Grant Street Partners, could not be reached for comment.

In an amended bankruptcy filing Monday, 501 Grant Street Partners listed assets and liabilities of $10 million to $50 million. It listed the number of creditors at 49 or less.

The largest creditors included the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority, the Pittsburgh Downtown Business Improvement District, and the CBRE real estate firm and an affiliate. The filing stated the amounts owed to the PWSA and the business improvement district were unknown. It listed the CBRE debts at $78,785.

Four years ago, 501 Grant Street Partners paid $24.1 million to buy the 11-story Union Trust Building and then signed a division of Siemens to a 10-year lease to occupy four floors of the structure.

Siemens later tried to reduce its space in the building, but Judge Ward ruled in March that the company was bound by the terms of its lease.

The Union Trust Building was built between 1915 and 1917 and designed by prominent Pittsburgh architect Frederick J. Osterling. One of its most distinguishing features is a central rotunda featuring a stained-glass dome at the top.

At its opening, there was space for 240 shops and about 700 offices. But more recently the building has fallen on hard times, losing most of its street-level retail tenants, including the Larrimor's clothing store. It is more than a third empty.

Mark Belko: or 412-263-1262.

First published on August 7, 2012 at 12:00 am

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