When the Ace Hotel Pittsburgh landed in East Liberty in 2015, it was a seismic event for the city. The ultra-hip chain of hotels chooses its locations carefully so selecting Pittsburgh seemed to indicate that the city had arrived as a place to be.
Opening in a historic, 100-year-old converted YMCA, its gym became a venue for everything from music festivals, to DIY craft fairs, to dance parties, to dodgeball games. With a James Beard-award-nominated chef Bethany Zozula at the helm, its restaurant, Whitfield, became perhaps Pittsburgh’s premier brunch spot.
Then the pandemic hit.
Now when you visit their website, you’re greeted with this message: “Ace Hotel Pittsburgh has temporarily suspended operations.” That appears to include its signature restaurant. Don’t try calling; the phones currently don’t work.
It’s been rumored for a while that the hotel was in financial trouble, and there is a Facebook group –called Ace Hotel Wedding Deposits– comprised of couples who have been unable to get a refund for their canceled weddings.
Now it seems a sale may be imminent, according to a report in the Pittsburgh Business Times.
“We’re going to have to sell the property to try and satisfy the debt,” said Nate Cunningham, one of the partners with the Y Hotel Group, the local owner of the property. “Hopefully it will all work out.”
The report says that “sources familiar with the plan” indicate Revolution Real Estate is in talks to buy the property, though they did not respond for comment.
Revolution, based in Washington D.C., is a real estate arm of Steve Case, who became an early tech billionaire by founding AOL (called Quantum Computer Services in 1985). Case is familiar with Pittsburgh — he brought his “Rise of the Rest” tour to Pittsburgh in 2014, to highlight cities with growing tech startup scenes away from usual coastal hotspots.
Investing in Pittsburgh seems consistent to Case’s commitment to cities with the potential for tech startup growth.
“We look outside of Silicon Valley to find such opportunities,” says the Revolution website. “Nearly 75 percent of all venture capital investment goes to just three states: California, New York and Massachusetts. At Revolution, we focus on venture communities in high-potential geographies because we know from experience that while talent is well distributed, opportunity is not.”
“Pittsburgh’s positioned to be a leader in the next wave of technological innovation,” said Steve Case in 2014, as he closed out his day-long ‘Rise of the Rest’ tour. Now, we just have to get the word out, and let the rest of the world know how great Pittsburgh really is.”