Imagine though. If, as is reported in the news, the Steel Building is being sold for $250 million, in a highly leveraged deal mind you, there would theoretically be a $7.5 million payment to the two public entities. $5 mil to city and $2.5 to school district. Not going to happen of course (or could it?), but lots of the buildings formally going through sheriff sales will not find it as easy to escape the tax. The steel building has been a boon for city finances in the past. In 1987 its nominal transaction value was a cool $billion even. The city didn’t get its $50 million in transfer tax, but it did wind up with $4.4 million from the 1984 sale of the building. The city had to sue to get an additional 444K which pushed that haul up to nearly $5 million. Adjusting for inflation that would be worth almost $11 million today which would not be underappreciated given the fiscal climate on the 5th floor.
It’s a bigger story than the building value of course. Now go and read Neil Peirce’s snippet history of the Alcoa Building’s transfer from Alcoa to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission. Technically it wound up being owned (reluctantly it seems)by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Corporation which is now being dragged into bankruptcy itself as a result. That part of the story is the real story here. A bad real estate deal is par for the course over the last few years. This deal, however, is dragging into bankruptcy what was meant to be the center of regional planning for the entire region. The Southwestern Pennsylvania Corporation is the alter ego of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission and in some sense the successor to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Regional Development Corporation (SPRDC). Over the decades many keep trying to drag SPC, the region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization(MPO), into being something that it is not. This one episode should be a big lesson why that may not be such a good idea and one might want them to stick to their knitting. It’s not like transportation planning for the region is not hard enough in itself. How they got dragged into this whole real estate imbroglio is an important story at the core of our perpetual topic of regionalism.
But since we are talking about the building, who remembers the original XPlorion built into the first floor. Not the current version, but the original Google-Earth’ish-Before-Keyhole virtual reality Autometric powered one?