Business Briefs: 4/24/14

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Duquesne Light distribution rate plan approved by PUC

Pennsylvania’s Public Utility Commission approved a new rate plan for Duquesne Light that increases electricity distribution rates by 11 percent. The Pittsburgh utility initially sought for a 17.6 percent increase, which would have raised $76.3 million, but a slew of complaints and an investigation by the PUC lowered that total to $48 million. The new rate plan will increase the average total monthly bill for customers using 600 kWh to $83.52, up from $78.42.

Bank appears to side with Wilson Center conservator

Dollar Bank says the sale of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture must generate enough money to pay off a $7 million delinquent mortgage or the Downtown facility could end up in foreclosure. In a filing with Orphans Court Judge Lawrence O’Toole, the bank, which holds the mortgage on the property, appears to be siding with conservator Judith Fitzgerald, who is proposing to sell the Liberty Avenue building to a local developer who is offering $9.5 million, the highest of four bidders. Mayor Bill Peduto, who wants to see the center sold to a consortium of local foundations that had offered $4 million for the property, has said that the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, which is owed money by the center, could step in to block a sale. Dollar Bank, in its filing, countered that the URA’s $574,200 loan is secondary to the bank’s.

Home construction up while existing sales fall

Homebuilders in the Pittsburgh region posted a healthy year-over-year gain in March while existing home sales fell for the second consecutive month, according to RealSTATs, a South Side-based real estate information service. Led by Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties, builders sold 152 new homes last month in the metro area, up from 119 one year ago. Gains in new construction, however, were offset by drops in existing home sales. The number of existing home sales fell 1.4 percent from 1,823 to 1,797 homes. Nationwide, the Commerce Department said Wednesday that sales of new homes declined 14.5 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 384,000.

Verizon mulls employment extension for workers here

Former Verizon Wireless employees who took severance packages at the Cranberry Woods call center in February may be returning temporarily. A Verizon Wireless representative confirmed the company has contacted former customer service employees to discuss the possibility of a 20-week employment extension because of high customer demand. It will not affect plans to close the call center permanently. More than 600 Verizon Wireless customer service employees from Cranberry Woods were offered severance packages or chances to relocate to one of 26 out-of-state offices as part of a national realignment.

Pittsburgh mayor meets with Yel­low Cab

Both Mayor Bill Peduto and Yellow Cab CEO Jamie Campolongo said a Wednesday meeting was productive, and that they plan to move forward together on ride-sharing legislation. "The reality is it is here to stay, and we should welcome ride-sharing as long as there are common sense safety rules," Mr. Peduto said after the meeting. Taxi companies in Pittsburgh have protested the arrival of San Francisco-based ride-share companies Lyft and Uber, which enlist drivers to use their own vehicles and connect with passengers via smartphone apps, because of what they view as a lack of regulatory oversight for such entities. "We just want everyone to follow the same rules, whatever they are," Mr. Campolongo said.

From staff reports

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